When Carol Dussault joined the Literacy Council of Sheboygan County in Plymouth, Wisconsin, the community’s immigrants and refugees gained an ally dedicated to advocating for their needs while also teaching them English to succeed in their new country. Over the years, she’s helped new community members acquire food, clothing, and furniture; she’s held a shoe drive in her basement; and she’s even helped a family apply for, and receive, a Habitat for Humanity home.
Meet Carol Dussault.
ProLiteracy: How long have you worked with the Literacy Council of Sheboygan County?
Carol Dussault: I began as a tutor in 2011.
PL: Why did you decide to start working with the literacy council?
CD: I had retired from teaching and had always enjoyed working with children who were learning English. I thought this might be a good way to volunteer and use my teaching skills.
PL: What do you teach and in what setting?
CD: I teach English to adults one-on-one. We work on all facets of English, as well as citizenship. I also train other tutors. I usually work at our local public library, but more recently I am tutoring a young mother in her home.
About Your Experience
PL: What have you learned about yourself by working with students?
CD: I have learned just how fortunate I have been in my life: to be born in the U.S., to have had so many opportunities to be educated, and to have so many freedoms—for an education, to have a career that I have loved, to have an equal partnership with my wonderful husband, to vote and participate in government, and to speak my mind when needed. I have also learned that I love to have a sense of purpose. Nothing makes me happier than when I see a student succeed.
PL: Tell us about a favorite/impactful/memorable teaching experience.
CD: My husband and I are mentoring a wonderful young couple from Myanmar. My husband tutors the husband, I tutor the wife. About two years ago, we helped them to apply for a Habitat for Humanity home. We have helped them through the process, and last fall we attended their house dedication. Now, we see how happy they are to be in a safe, decent, affordable house in a stable neighborhood. Their children are thriving.
PL: How do you keep students motivated?
CD: We laugh a lot. I also check in frequently to see what each student wants to work on. I try to always have lots of conversation in the lesson time so that my students know that I care about them and so that their conversation skills improve. I often tell a student a story about something silly or frustrating that has happened to me so that they can practice listening and can rest their brains a bit after a challenging practice session. Connecting with others is so important to us all, for our feeling of belonging and for our mental and physical well-being. Giving them the skills to communicate is vital and rewarding.
The Other Stuff
PL: Name someone who inspires you.
CD: My own children inspire me. My daughter teaches in a large city and has students with many needs. She works hard to bring them along and to provide for their needs, beyond just academics, as much as possible. She also works very hard to move her community along on social justice issues. My son teaches engineering at a university, and I often listen to him talk about how hard he works to meet the needs of his students. He has developed courses that help students who may not be ready academically for engineering but, with some extra coursework to prepare them, can succeed. I know he finds that rewarding.
PL: Where would you go on your dream vacation?
CD: I have been lucky enough to have traveled quite a bit, but I would still love to go to Greece and Turkey.
PL: What is your favorite book of all time?
CD: No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s a great telling of the time of the Roosevelt administration and the challenges that Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt met with [during] the Depression and WWII. It gives me hope that our own challenging time can be met with our dedication, perseverance, and compassion.
PL: Are you reading anything now?
CD: The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese. (It’s amazing. Spans almost a century of a story of India)
Instructor Spotlight is a monthly feature on the ProLiteracy website and blog. Nominate an outstanding instructor from your program to be featured!