Val Biffert loves to meet new people and talk with them which fits in nicely with tutoring her students on developing  their English  conversational  and reading skills.

Val Biffert loves to meet new people and talk with them which fits in nicely with tutoring her students on developing their English conversational and reading skills.

Reach a Reader: Tutor enjoys chatting

Helping adults to improve their reading skills has become a richly rewarding experience for Val Biffert.

Helping adults to improve their reading skills has become a richly rewarding experience for Val Biffert.

Seven years ago, Val took her first tutor training course with Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy after seeing an advertisement in The Tribune.

Since then she has tutored three new Canadian women whose first language was not English.

“Tutoring opens new doors for me and in return I am opening new doors for my students,” Val says. “I love learning about new cultures and feel that I have an insider’s view of my learner’s birth country. Watching my learner gain confidence is very rewarding. So, it is a win-win situation.”

Val grew up in Bella Coola and raised two sons in Williams Lake with her husband Wayne. Now retired Val and Wayne both had long careers with BC Tel and Telus.

Some of Val’s work involved training other staff members. And for about a dozen years she also taught the Weight Watchers program.

“I came to realize that I have really been teaching something to people all of my life and didn’t clue in until I took the PAL training that I really liked doing that,” Val says. “The beauty of CCPL is that the training is free and they give you the tools you will need to teach. There is also a well stocked resource library.”

She says the initial training was presented in six sessions, but she continues to take  workshops whenever she has the time, the latest one being on financial literacy.

She volunteers as a tutor for an hour or two a week.

“One of the things that is so important about this job is watching people, because it is not about me, it is about my learner and what they want to do,” Val says.

“For me that is sometimes difficult because I like to talk, but that is not always a good thing. Everybody who knows me, knows I like to talk.”

Over the years, Val has helped her students to develop their English conversation and word skills for various reasons — improving communication skills for running their business, conversational skills for taking on a new job, or helping her learner learn words for a special interest such as cooking or gardening.

Val may also help her students to connect with other resources in the community they may not realize are available to them or help them to study for their Canadian citizenship test.

“It’s not an easy test,” Val says. “I’ve studied it and believe most Canadians would have trouble passing it.”

In doing the research to help her students build their literacy skills, Val says she learns a lot in return.

“It strikes me as amazing what I don’t know.”

For instance Val says she and one of her students shared some laughs over their respective fears when it comes to city and country life. Living in the Cariboo, Val is perfectly comfortable in the woods, but has a fear of big city high- rises, while her student, who was raised in a big city is perfectly comfortable in a high-rise, but has a fear of Canada’s wild spaces.

“The three women I have tutored and their families are making significant contributions to our community,” Val says.

Val is also an avid reader who belongs to a book club, and volunteers for an hour or so a week cleaning books and DVDs at the Williams Lake Library.

She and Wayne also have three ponds on their property known as Biff’s Ponds, where they invite people with mobility and vision issues, seniors, school children, home-schooled children, and families to come and fish. Each of the three ponds is equipped with a dock.

“I grow too,” Val says of volunteering with PAL. “I’m trying to be old and smart.”