Volunteer Spotlight:  Bert Merkling

 

Bert Merkling began volunteering at TLLC in 2010 when TLLC’s Computer Tutoring Program began.  “I like anything to do with computers,” he says.  “My wife used to tell me that I was born 40 years too soon.”

 

Bert tutors adult students on Wednesday mornings, teaching them do basic skills, such as using a mouse, saving a document, writing an email and completing an online job application.  A calm person, Bert laughs a lot and makes the students feel cheerful (or at least, less anxious).  He’s still enjoying tutoring six years after he started.  “The students are all so nice,” he says. 

The Gift of Friendship: Betty Pollard and Irma Zimmer

 Written by Joanna Bratton for Marvelous! Magazine, Dec. 2017

 

A lot of laughter can be heard behind one of the doors at the Twin Lakes Literacy Council.

Listening to the friendly banter of Irma Zimmer and Betty Pollard, it’s impossible to tell which one is student and which one is tutor.

“We just enjoy being together,” says Betty, who at 88 is the oldest volunteer tutor at the literacy council, and teaches Irma, 90, the oldest student.

“I have something on my mind, I tell her,” Irma says. “I feel much better.”

“I’m going to start charging a lawyer’s fee,” Betty quips.

Irma, who grew up in Gerdauen, Germany, came to the literacy council almost eight years ago after her husband died. She moved to the United States in 1957 but always spoke German to her husband and friends, and did not speak English well. She couldn’t read or write in English.

When someone she knew suggested she go to the literacy council, she thought, “‘I’m not going to school with the little kids.’” But mail would arrive and she could not read it. She could not write checks to pay her bills. She wanted to crawl into a hole and forget about everything. At that point she told herself, “‘Well, Irma, get in the car. Go to school.’”

Irma meets with Betty an hour each week. She also has two other tutors at the literacy council.  “She’s a diligent student,” says Betty, who has volunteered four years as a tutor. “She can read very well. She does some of her vowels with a German accent.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Irma interjects, to laughter.

“I don’t make her memorize,” Betty adds.

“Because she thinks I’m so old, she thinks I don’t have much time,” Irma says dryly, not missing a beat.

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