On the first day of class, Byte Back Instructor Kalleigh Landstra walked into a packed classroom. The eleven students and laptops were a tight fit in the Washington Literacy Center classroom, but everyone was eager to be there. This spring was only the third time that we offered PC for Beginners for Literacy Learners, a class specially designed for students with low literacy levels, and there was already a waitlist to get into the next class.
Luke A. remembers what his first day was like. “I was nervous about it. I had never used a computer in my life before I came to class.” His classmate Denise H. was also not sure what to expect. “I was skeptical about taking the class because I [thought] it contained a lot of reading and I’m really not at that level yet,” she says. But both of them remember how comfortable Kalleigh and the WLC staff made them feel as the class progressed.
“Kalleigh was fantastic. She said, ‘Denise, you just take it slow.’ Even when I struggled, I knew I’d get there,” Denise says. All of the students benefitted from the WLC’s welcoming, close-knit environment. “I loved how comfortable the students felt asking questions,” Kalleigh says. “If they didn’t know how to spell something or if I had gone too fast, they would just tell me.” She credits the WLC for giving the students the support they needed to feel comfortable in class. “The WLC is fantastic,” she says. “The staff is great, and the work that they do is amazing.”
Like Kalleigh, WLC Case Manager Christina Keen is continually impressed by the students’ dedication. “We had one student who changed her work schedule so she could attend. She is literally at work driving the buses from 5 a.m., comes in, doesn’t even get a lunch, and then goes right back out to work.” WLC Executive Director Terry Algire emphasizes the importance of tailoring a class to students’ needs. “This type of partnership is extremely important because adult learners don’t have a great deal of time,” she says. “[These students] are reading on very low levels but at the same time they have to get a job, they have to enroll their children in school and you can’t do that without basic computer skills.”
All of the students made great progress in their computer skills over the course of the class. Luke says he’s now able to apply for jobs online, and Denise is saving time and enjoying herself by shopping online and looking for recipes to cook for her family. Both of them now regularly use email to communicate with their friends and family, and WLC Case Manager Christina Keen has noticed that students have started to send her emails for the first time. But the students aren’t the only ones who have benefitted from the class. “My experience teaching there has made me a more aware and better teacher,” Kalleigh says. “It has helped me to teach in a more accessible way.”
“We’re thrilled,” Terry Algire adds. “It’s empowering. It’s an introduction to computers in a way that they can access it, feel good about the learning, and feel more confident when they come out of the class. They can put those skills to use immediately.”
Denise has advice for anyone who wants to improve their reading, writing, or computer skills: don’t let your fear hold you back. “There are so many people like us who are still in the closet because they are ashamed. They are fearful of what the other people might say to them,” she says. “Once you let go of that fear, you realize you had no reason to be afraid. [This class] made me feel like anything was possible for me.”
Every month, we feature a student who doing something remarkable with his or her Byte Back training. Read about some of our other successful students: Brian, Ugenia, Christopher, Rhonda, and Ezequiel. You can find additional stories in our past newsletters.