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Helmer Duvergé Role as a Parent is Key in Adult Education

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His road to becoming family literacy trainer spans two countries and a couple of careers.

After spending time in the United States and graduating from high school, Helmer Duvergé returned to the Dominican Republic to become a doctor. But life had other plans.

During his second year of medical school, he was asked to substitute teach. A few minutes in front of a class of third-graders was all it took to change his career path.



Duvergé returned to the United States after finishing college and began teaching adult education, including GED, ABE and citizenship classes in New York. He enjoyed adult education because he was able to develop his own curriculum to suit the needs of the students, and he found that he was implementing family literacy without knowing the formal term.

"Family literacy improves adult education," said Duvergé, who is now a senior ESL family literacy training specialist for the National Center for Family Literacy in Louisville, KY. "When you can relate education to someone's role as a parent and put it in the context of family life, you can make an impact far beyond the classroom."

He came to Kentucky to become a certified trainer and found that his work as a trainer was even more fulfilling than his role as a classroom teacher.

"The work is so important," he said. "You see the difference and realize that you're touching more people. Family literacy programs don't just impact the participants. I see the fabric of the school change. It opens the eyes [of students and teachers] to parental involvement, and [family literacy] becomes embedded into the entire school. What schools see increases with PTA participation and parent empowerment."

Duvergé said that adult education can be more challenging than teaching children because many of the adults have been put down by their relatives or society for a long time. However, that is what makes it rewarding to him. The work adult students complete in a family literacy class is often the first accomplishment that they have felt successful about.

For anyone contemplating a career in teaching adults in family literacy programs, especially training, Duvergé said that these educators should possess the following qualities:
  • Understanding that anyone can learn
  • Patience. You will be working with teachers to train them on new methods
  • The ability to sell a product (family literacy)
  • Diplomacy
  • A collaborative attitude
  • The ability to use analysis and explain ideas using visuals
  • An enthusiastic personality that boosts people's spirit and self-confidence
  • An enjoyment of meeting with and working with a diverse group of people
Duvergé also stated that there are large waiting lists across the country for ESL classes because there aren't enough teachers.

For more information on a career in family literacy, visit www.famlit.org, or contact your state director of adult education.
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