Lifelong Educator Teaches English at 87

Adult literacy tutor and student

When Joyce Hartman was 21 years old and attending San Diego State University, she traveled to Japan to teach English to local teens. That was the beginning of her quest to continue helping people and teaching English as a second language to adult immigrants in the U.S. And she continues her quest today, at age 87.

Hartman continues to work as an inspirational tutor to many English language learners, for three hours one day a week at Rancho Bernardo Literacy Center in San Diego, California. The center sees a wide range of adult learners come through and succeed, including immigrants from Japan, South Korea, China, Germany, Iran, and the Netherlands.

Because of her time spent in Japan and her ability to understand their accents and cultures, Hartman usually tutors adults from Japan or Korea. Many of these students are the wives of tech workers in San Diego on short-term work visas, like Heejung Kim, 47, who has been studying weekly with Hartman for the past two years.

“She is so kind and she can read my mind,” Kim said about Hartman. “She is a good teacher but she has also taught me a lot about school life for my son.”

Hartman met her husband, John Hartman, during her time in Japan while he was stationed with the U.S. Army. He later earned his teaching credential in social sciences, and not long after, co-taught American children on a U.S. military base in Germany with his wife.

The Hartmans went on to have three children, one of whom also became a teacher, and continue successful teaching careers. After retiring at 65, Hartman realized how much she missed teaching and decided to become a volunteer tutor at Rancho Bernardo Literacy Center. The center uses the Laubach Literacy for Adult Learners program, a proven method that has taught millions who have little or no reading skills with a step-by-step reading approach.

“Joyce is wonderful,” said Nancy Anderson, Rancho Bernardo Literacy Center’s program director. “She’s super flexible and extremely welcoming to new students. Most people don’t talk much the first time they come, but she knows how to draw them out.”


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