Valerie has endured a tough life of no stability or structure. She dropped out of school, and due to trouble, was essentially incarcerated. As with many Family & Children’s Services Women in Recovery (WIR) participants, Valerie learns lifelong skills that she hopes will improve options for her and her son, Ben, aged 6.
In January, Valerie joined the GED program. For her, the program provides structure and stability, and her drive to achieve success is heartfelt and sincere.
“I have learned so much from my classes – from writing essays to math,” Valerie said thoughtfully. “Before I started the program, I wasn’t aware of the lack of experience I had in my life. Now I understand. I didn’t even know I was good at math. My math teacher is amazing because she takes the time to see where I need help.
“Because of what I‘ve learned, I have an open mind. I would like to eventually get a job and take care of my son.”
Statistics show that the higher the level of education, the risk of recidivism is reduced. The Department of Labor – October 2019 reports that individuals (with a GED or high school diploma) earn up to $3.50 more per hour than those without a high school diploma or GED.
Due to the pandemic, the GED program has been operated remotely since March 30. In September, WIR partnered with Union Public Schools to continue the GED program by using the school district’s technology resources. Four volunteers and two Union Public School instructors teach students via distance learning each morning Monday through Friday on Zoom. Class sizes are smaller, consisting of three to 10 students.
Volunteer instructor Mary Lhevine has been teaching math classes now five days a week since March. Although the process has been different, the rewards overshadow the challenges. Lhevine said she and the other teachers meet once a week to share experiences and pinpoint solutions for their students.
“Teaching and planning have been a challenge because I do not have the same students each day due to each individual having different schedules,” she said. “However, the most rewarding thing is that the level of engagement has changed. I’m not sure if it is because its less intimidating to speak online than it is in person, but the students are able to work on problems together and they’re not afraid to speak up if needed. Everyone pitches in to help, and they talk about the problems they are working on. There is talking; there is laughter – something I had never seen in the classroom before.
As an illustration, I simply put my hand over my mouth and watch them figure out the problems. That way, it allows them to learn mathematics together.”
Lhevine said that the technology helps her to highlight portions of mathematical problems as she is teaching so that students can follow along carefully.
“You can’t easily do that on a whiteboard in a classroom,” she said. “It’s incredible to do this on Zoom.”
The involvement of the F&CS case managers is key to the students’ success as well. “The case managers who attend the class is helpful because they work individually with each student to make sure their needs are taken care of,” Lhevine said. “That is huge, and I really do appreciate the case managers being that close to us as teachers.”
With access, every GED student who enrolls completes a TABE (Testing Adult Basic Education) test, an assessment tool allows WIR to identify the gaps in the student’s educational knowledge and assists with proper classroom placement. Students also have access to an online portal to use at any time to work independently on coursework outside of classroom instruction. Each student retakes the TABE test every 40 hours of completed GED programming.
“We’re extremely grateful for this partnership within our community, the instructors, volunteers, and staff members who are setting the framework for our women to have the tools and resources they need to enter the community fully prepared to be higher wage earners and the opportunity to pursue educational goals and dreams,” said Amanda Osterdyk, director of WIR Continuing Care.