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ProLiteracy Instructor Spotlight: Anne Larsen, Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley

February 7, 2023

At Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley (LVNRV) in Virginia,  Anne Larsen is known as their “Wonder Woman” because she’s saved the day time and again.

She’s helped incarcerated men at a local jail achieve GED success, tutored ESOL and citizenship classes when they needed instructors, and advocated and spread the word about fundraising initiatives. In addition to swooping in where needed, Larsen spearheaded a workplace literacy program with Virginia Tech and developed curricula for digital and financial literacy courses that the university offered to its dining services and housekeeping employees. It was so successful that the university has continued to pay LVNRV to provide these courses for its staff.

Larsen then took that financial literacy course and reworked it to offer it to participants in drug court treatment programs.

In just under five years, Larsen has made a huge impact on LVNRV, the adults it serves, and the community.

Meet Anne Larsen.

The Basics

ProLiteracy: How long have you worked with Literacy Volunteers of New River Valley?

Anne Larsen: 4.5 years

PL: Why did you decide to teach adults?

AL: I believe that sharing the gift of literacy is one of the most impactful ways to make a difference in someone’s life.

PL: What do you teach and in what setting?

AL: I’ve had many roles within LVNRV and have learned from—and enjoyed—them all! I love the energy and fun of a classroom setting. The relationship building that is possible with one-on-one tutoring is wonderful. I’ve found co-teaching and assisting a fantastic way to grow my own teaching skills.  Developing classroom courses, adapting material to student needs and interests, and finding creative ways to help students engage with the material is very gratifying. At LVNRV, I have served in the following roles:

  • ESOL tutor, one-on-one
  • GED tutor at the local jail
  • Developer and co-teacher for “Basic Computer and Writing Skills” in a classroom setting for SkillUp VT, a partnership between LVNRV and Virginia Tech for dining and hospitality staff
  • Developer and teacher for “Financial Literacy” in a classroom setting for both SkillUp VT and our local Recovery Court (i.e., court-sponsored, jail-diversion program for drug offenders)
  • Citizenship tutor, one-on-one
  • Assisted with group ESOL classes

About Your Experience 

PL: Tell us about a favorite/impactful/memorable teaching experience.

AL: There have been so many, but one experience that sticks with me involves one of my first students who was incarcerated at the local jail and studying for his high school equivalency exam. He was really nailing the material, so I posed the question: What’s next? What do you want to do when you get released? He looked stunned, got a little teary, and then quietly replied, “No one has ever asked me that before.”

PL: How do you keep students motivated?

AL: I think the best student motivator is the knowledge that someone has confidence in them.

The Other Stuff 

PL: Name someone who inspires you.

AL: My mother was the first literacy volunteer I knew. Her focus was basic literacy, and she helped several women learn to read. Though it took me 20 years, it was her experience that inspired me to finally become a literacy volunteer. My mom always said, “I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.” And I’m pleased that the family calling has been passed along with two of my children becoming literacy volunteers.

PL: Where would you go on your dream vacation?

AL: Next up on my travel bucket list is Japan.

PL: What is your favorite book of all time?

AL: I have such a hard time with this question, so I’ll fudge and answer the favorite book I’ve read this year (yes, I know it’s only February): Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin.

PL: What are you reading now?

AL: I was inspired to pick up my current read, Elizabeth Catte’s What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, after finishing Demon Copperfield by Barbara Kingsolver.

PL: What book do you like to recommend to your students?

AL: For those just starting on their financial literacy journey, Easy Money by Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a practical and approachable resource.

Instructor Spotlight is a monthly feature on the ProLiteracy website and blog. Nominate an outstanding instructor from your program to be featured! 

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