Making Connections: A Women's Literacy Program in Durham

Dawn Lasci

are enthusiastic and thankful for the opportunity to be receiving individualized programming and assistance.

We currently have four teacher volunteers who have dedicated their time to this literacy class every Thursday night since October. Lynn Imbrasas is new to the class this year and teaches grade 3 at Valley Farm Public School in Pickering. Vilma Yearwood is a Durham occasional teacher. Nancy Chambers is a retired principal who was the first Reading Recovery teacher in Durham, and started the first adult literacy program in the region. I have worked with the Durham Literacy Program since its inception and teach grade 7 homeroom and Primary, Junior and Intermediate art, also at Valley Farm.

Teachers work alongside Vera Bala, who is the YWCA’s Interim Housing Outreach Worker, and who can be depended upon to assist whenever necessary. She is a strong supporter of this program, and has witnessed firsthand the progress made by the students.
The need for a large variety of resources suitable for our mature students, ranging in age from their twenties to their early sixties, resulted in our local taking advantage of one of ETFO’s many excellent funding opportunities, the Working with Equity Seeking Groups Incentive Funding. We requested a grant to purchase iPads for the class. Two of our teachers had already been bringing in their own iPads and found them to be excellent academic tools with many literacy-based applications.

Our funding application was approved and we were thrilled to find we had been granted a total of $2,000! With that, and the generosity of a local electronics store, we were able to purchase a total of four iPads complete with accessories.

The iPads have not only ensured the popularity of the class, they have also opened up a whole new world for the women in the program, many of whom have never before used this type of technology. Their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn have soared, as they master a variety of educational applications. We saw a direct correlation between women acquiring these new skills and growth in self-confidence.

All of the teachers working in the program, and the Durham Local executive who made it happen, feel so privileged to be able to provide this unique learning experience. It is an opportunity to show our commitment to education and to our community, and to learn from the diverse experiences of our community members.

As women teachers we find this particularly rewarding because of the impact not only on our students’ literacy development, but also on their self-esteem and perception of self-worth. This experience has made us all more aware of the need for society to recognize that so many women are not given the opportunities they are entitled to, and


women sitting at tables

How do you demonstrate the power of language to students weaned on a diet of dramatic and engaging visuals? I have them close their eyes and picture an image to accompany the famous words of British poet, Robert Browning: "A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

women and children in classroom using computer

In a world increasingly dependent on technology, technology is everybody’s business — or should be.