Retired teacher continuing the lessons

Kate Phillips with a group of students. (WLUK image)

KEWAUNEE (WLUK) -- A retired teacher in northeast Wisconsin is making a difference.

She’s been continuing the lessons the past few summers while extending her reach for students from Central America.

“It is a big deal," says volunteer tutor Kate Phillips. "They cannot get their university degree, even though they’ve completed all their skills, if they don’t pass TOEFL.”

TOEFL stands for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. And it could be the final hurdle for these college students from Guatemala.

The Kewaunee Public Library will be doubling as a classroom for the next few months as the students from Guatemala gain some real world experience.

A total of nine students are staying with host families this summer as they immerse themselves in English, and textbooks, hoping to gain the skills they need to pass the test. And the fact that those helping them are volunteers is a lesson not lost on the students.

“This inspires us I think to help other people because we have been helped a lot,” says Victor Del Cid, a university student from Guatemala.

In addition to her summer work with students from overseas, Phillips also volunteers with the non-profit Literacy Partners of Kewaunee County year-round.

Through that, she’s tutored a number of local people who have gone on to get their GED’s.

“Kate has done so much for our community and for us and all the people in the area," says Bob Garfinkel, President of Literacy Partners of Kewaunee County.

Phillips got her degree in Minnesota, and started teaching there before moving to Wisconsin. Most recently she taught in Kewaunee before retiring. She says there are a lot of parallels between her career as an educator and her service as a volunteer.

“What I’ve always gotten out of teaching," Phillips says. "The joy of working with people and getting that response. People who are willing to learn are exciting to work with. You know, it’s a teacher’s dream."

And she’s always open to being a student herself.

“What is really nice is they’re bringing their culture to us," says Phillips. "Every time we learn new things from them too. That’s exciting. Or even new foods. Some like to cook, and I love to cook, so I learn new ways to cook.”

And these students are hoping this summer provides a recipe for success when it comes to one of their main courses in college.

The students paid their own way to get to Wisconsin. But in addition to tutoring, Phillips and her husband are also hosting two of them in their home this summer.

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