Employees at local retirement community are eligible for free literacy tutoring

December 2, 2012

Organization:
Asbury Methodist Village.

Location:
Gaithersburg.

Employees: 800.

At Asbury Methodist Village, a retirement community in Gaithersburg, staffers hail from more than two dozen countries, and many of them are recent immigrants.

To help them succeed on the job, the organization offers free English tutoring to its workers. The coaching takes place on campus, making it easy for employees to attend their lessons.

Tutoring sessions are taught by residents of the senior living community, who first undergo training through the Literacy Council of Montgomery County to be instructors. Each participating resident is matched with a staffer, and the pair meets once a week.

Jose Montesinos, a cook who immigrated from Mexico, enrolled in the tutoring program about a month ago. He’s focused on improving his spelling and pronunciation, which he said have been his biggest challenges in learning English.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Montesinos said. “I just want to get better at my job.”

The residents teach the classes on a volunteer basis.

“It really goes beyond the employee-customer relationship. It’s really more of a family environment,” said Rob McMonagle, director of human resources. “The program, I think, emphasizes that.”

Though the tutors work for free, the teaching materials cost $15 per session. Asbury covers this cost.

In addition to fostering a sense of community, McMonagle also sees the program as an important employee retention tool.

“It’s important that we have consistency in staff: To have people stay, get their citizenship, continue to work here,” McMonagle said.

Marilyn Gaut, the literacy program’s director, said that it has led many participants to improve their job performance. Others, she said, are using it to help prepare for their citizenship exam or a college entrance exam.

And Gaut says the instructors benefit from the literacy program, too.

Tutoring, Gaut said, gives her “a feeling of helping people. Keeps my mind active.”

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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