Longtime Volunteer Reactivates Popular ESL Program
In his 76 years, Bob Dietz has worn many hats: elementary school teacher; activist; drug rehabilitation counselor; social worker; and journalist, a title he shared along with his late wife, veteran CNN producer Donna Meiyun Liu.
Together, Bob and Donna traveled the world for work and pleasure. In addition, they received English as a Second Language (ESL) training, with plans to eventually live abroad, teaching English to students.
In the meantime, after he retired in mid-2016, Bob became a volunteer at TASK and launched our ESL program as part of the soup kitchen’s Adult Education & Work Preparedness (AEWP) program. Bob and Donna both became active ESL teachers in a few nearby programs, but Bob focused especially on his students at TASK.
In 2020, COVID put a stop to in-person tutoring and, soon after, Donna fell ill. Bob took a hiatus from tutoring to care for his wife, who sadly passed away last fall.
Recently, Bob felt the pull to return to TASK to restart the ESL program. Picking up where he left off, even renewing relationships with many of his former students, Bob is now volunteering at TASK four days a week.
There is no question that Bob’s hard work pays off. Nearly every weekday morning, “Teacher Bob” greets TASK staff and students before getting to work. But it’s not all serious — there is also a lot of laughter.
“Bob’s students don’t like him, they love him,” says Calmia (Mia) Hart, Manager of AEWP. “Bob is simply the best; his energy is infectious. His students know that he genuinely cares about their progress.”
Says Bob, “I feel buoyed by my students. They are really invested. You see how much it means to them. I come in here and it’s all good vibes.”
Bob, who is actively recruiting more students and tutors to the ESL program, wants others like him to know that tutoring at TASK is a rewarding experience.
“Anyone who wants to do this, come do it,” says Bob. “We’ll help you. We’ve got all the things necessary to help our volunteers successfully teach [HSE] and ESL.”
Right now, TASK is hoping to recruit more ESL tutors, with training provided. Most tutors volunteer one to two days a week. Our students hail from Africa, Haiti, Mexico and China.
Bob draws a parallel to his own parents, who were German immigrants. “My mom was a hairdresser, had her own beauty shop. My dad worked in a shipyard in Camden. They raised two boys and got us through college. And I see these people trying to do the same thing. Some come here when they’ve finished their night shifts or their second jobs. I say, why are you guys doing this? They say, ‘If you want to do anything in America, you have to speak English.’”
Never one to miss a chance to recruit a new teacher, Bob adds, “If you want to engage with people who are honest, who are sincere, who are working, who are carving out part of a busy life to do this—to learn English—it’s really rewarding. It just makes you feel great.”
Tag: Adult Education - ESL - Featured - Partnerships - Patron Services - Success Stories - Team - Volunteering - Date Posted: Dec 1, 2022 - Author: Trenton Soup Kitchen