Sheila Rorke: Welcoming adult immigrants with individual tutoring

 

Sheila Rorke of Broadview Avenue is a local volunteer who gives her time to helping new immigrants to Canada learn English.

She is part of an organization called ELTOC (English Language Tutoring for the Ottawa Community), a non-profit organization that provides home tutoring for adult immigrants who are not able to attend regular English classes. Mostly this includes those who have commitments to family or work or health issues that do not allow them to get out of the house to a regular language class. Also, the program is only available to immigrants who have not yet received Canadian citizenship.

Volunteers like Sheila are given an orientation training course from ELTOC that prepares them in the techniques of teaching English as a second language. “They give us some very good training in what to expect and how to proceed,” says Rorke.

Sheila meets with her students in their home once a week for two to three hours to help build practical English skills. The initial language skills of each student can range from very little, to an intermediate level of understanding. They can start off with simple, everyday things like reading the grocery store flyer and doing the shopping.

Rorke has been a volunteer most of her life, spending many years with the Museum of Civilization, even as far back as its days as the Museum of Man. “You look far too young to have ever been at the Museum of Man,” she chuckles at me.

Volunteering with the ELTOC, Rorke finds fascination in the diversity of the many cultures the world has to offer. “I’ve traveled a fair amount to other countries, and I’m interested in other cultures,” she says. “It is interesting to get to know somebody who has come from somewhere else, that’s one of the real rewards of doing it.”

It’s a unique experience, to get an inside view of the life of someone who has just landed in a new country with a new culture, “They are very committed to making a life here. It really is a privilege to get to know them,” she says.

Through her travels, Sheila has always called Westboro home. She and her husband have been at their Broadview home since 1970. Looking out through the large, front window of their living room is a picturesque view of the Broadview Public School yard, “I find it quite entertaining and cheery to watch the kids,” she smiles.

Rorke herself attended Broadview Public School and Nepean High School, as did her two children. She has seen a great change come to her neighbourhood as Westboro burst forth into the community hub that it is today.

“When I first moved to this area, in the 1950s it was the very edge of the city,” she says. “There was a golf course just up that way [pointing West] and a little bit farther was country, and there was a street car line that we took downtown.”

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