Previous Tutor Spotlight

  • Nona Mathews, Tutor since 1987

    Nona Mathews, Tutor since 1987

    Nona Mathews started tutoring with the English-in-Action program when her husband came to San Diego on sabbatical in the early 1980’s and then again in 1987 when they moved here permanently.   She graduated from Radcliffe College/Harvard University with a degree in Psychology in 1945 and then in her 40's, she got two Masters Degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and worked for several years there as a counselor/program manager for the Community Mental Health.  She later joined the School of Public Health at the University running their Career Services Program.

    Nona finds that working with the international community is a tremendous joy!  She has worked with at least 25 tutees over the years, mostly from Taiwan, Mainland China, Korea and Japan but has also had tutees from other countries, such as Finland and Italy.

    Nona shares, “I learn as much as (I hope) they do and have made long-term friendships with many of my tutees.” One of her tutees that she worked with over 15 years ago, an ophthalmologist from Japn still visits her every time she comes to San Diego for conferences!  Nona has even become friends with the mother of one her Japanese tutees from many years ago, who just visited her last year.

    Nona primarily focuses on conversation rather than more formal attention to grammar etc.  She spends a lot of time on idioms, which dominate American speech. She uses a lot of different resources, especially newspapers, since they use idioms so much in headlines and elsewhere.   She believes that it’s essential to be interested in getting to know a tutee and being open about learning different cultures.

    She also tries to expose her tutees to local things to do and see (for example, the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, special exhibits in Balboa Park museums, and the grunion run, the unusual event of seeing fish wash ashore in spring and lay their eggs in the sand).   Even simple field trips such as a trip to a grocery store can yield lots of fun and useful information. One of her tutees was interested in law, and she took him to visit a courtroom to see a trial in process.

    Nona is currently tutoring two women, Mohae Lee, a spouse from Korea and a Rehab Al-Awad, a Visiting Scholar from Saudi Arabia. Rehab's specialist training is in gynecology and she's currently doing research here.  She talks freely about the life of a woman in her country (for example, the fact that she's not allowed to drive, and must be driven by a male relative or a man hired by her sister as a driver).   They usually meet weekly as a three-some and both Mohae and Rehab are very open to discussing anything and have had very interesting discussions about each others’ cultures.

    Nona would like to share this piece of advice with potential and new tutors: “If you enjoy the experience, they'll almost certainly share the enjoyment.”

    Thank you to Nona for her many years of tutoring with EIA and sharing her experiences while making new friends with the international community!

  • Nori Faer, Tutor since 2011

    Nori Faer, Tutor since 2011

    Nori Faer has been tutoring in the EIA program since 2011, after she was referred to the program by Toby Wolf, a long-time tutor in EIA.  Nori has an MFA in Acting from Rutgers University and taught theater in New Jersey. She also designed and ran after school and summer arts programs for high school students and has worked in the film industry, where she assisted in the casting of major motion pictures.  She was also staffing specialist for major corporations and non-profit companies prior to retiring in 2007 before she moved to San Diego.  Nori has been an active member of the OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute, a Chancellor’s Associate and is currently serving on the board of the “Friends of the International Center.”

    Nori is currently working with 2 tutees, Audrey Leriche from France and Bahareh Javadi Nasab from Iran.  She enjoys tutoring as she finds it uses all of the skills she developed over the years in a new and refreshing way! She loves sharing perspectives on marriage, children, careers, education, and friendship with her tutees. Both Audrey & Bahareh’s English skills have vastly improved since she started meeting with them and they have both provided thoughtful insights to their discussions.  They love sharing information about their culture with Nori and she is enjoying learning more about the French and Persian cultures, which makes their sessions all the more wonderful.

    Nori’s advice to new tutors is: Be open about yourself.  Share stories of your life: it's victories and disappointments.  By doing so, you will find that they will be willing to share.  This creates an atmosphere of trust and friendship between you and your tutee(s).

    In addition to tutoring in the EIA program, Nori also volunteers at the Wednesday Morning Coffee sessions (10-12 every Wed.) to practice conversation with international visitors at “Gus’ Table.”

    Thank you to Nori for her continuing dedication and work with the “Friends” and “EIA,” assisting our international visitors from many different countries!

    If you are interested in becoming an English conversation tutor, please visit the website to learn more about the program and fill out an online application.

  • Christina Kim, Tutor since 2011

    Christina Kim, Tutor since 2011

    Christina Kim is a fourth year , ERC undergraduate student studying International Studies with a focus on Political Science and East Asian Studies and has been a tutor in the English-in-Action(EIA)  program for 2 years.

    In addition to tutoring in the EIA program, she is involved in various student organizations on campus such as International Club, Alternative Breaks, and TEDxUCSD. A huge goal in Christina’s life is to work and travel abroad, most likely somewhere in Asia. She loves cooking and her dream job would be along the lines of having a TV show where you can watch her try different foods around the world.

    Christina started working at the International Center as the Programs/Communications Assistant  and then joined the EIA program after she saw first-hand the positive experiences many of the tutors and tutees had in this program. Many tutors have made life-long friends in the program and continue to receive emails and letters from their former students who went back to their home countries. When she first joined the program, she had never traveled abroad and was eager to meet international students and hear their perspective about life in America and introduce them to great places in San Diego.

    The best part of the EIA program is that it is a great way to meet people you would have never meet otherwise! Now she has life-long pen pals and friends from different countries who motivate her to travel to their countries and experience their cultures.  She really enjoys talking about the differences between their societies and American society. Through their curious observations, she is more aware of her surroundings and culture. Additionally, another great part of the EIA program is seeing the improvement of each of the students. Last year, she helped a Japanese exchange student with her writing for her classes and she had tremendous improvement in her writing skills and in her English conversation skills by the end of the year. Christina said “I remember how happy she was when she got her first A in a political science class at the end of the year and how rewarding it was to see her growth.”

    Christina has been working with Siena Ma, a grad student from China since last year.  She is also tutoring 2 more students this year, Jeonghyun and Lin. Jeonghyun is an undergraduate third year from South Korea. Lin is a post doctorate from Beijing, China and works in a lab at UCSD. Although there is an age difference between the students, the tutoring sessions are very similar. They usually have tutoring sessions over lunch, dinner or coffee throughout the year whenever they have time.

    Christina’s advice to new tutors is to tell their students to keep a small record or notebook and jot down questions they may have or words and phrases they do not recognize throughout the week. This is a great way to start the beginning of each session by going over the questions the students have and initiating conversation. It helps the students feel comfortable asking the tutors questions and helps focus the tutoring sessions in the beginning. Also, when in doubt, do not be afraid to google a question or two if you as a tutor do not know the answer.

    Christina shared  “The EIA program is awesome because it is very flexible and allows for the tutors and tutees to become friends, rather than teacher and students. Most of the tutees who apply for the program are interested in finding a tutor who they can practice speaking with and learn more about American culture.” She is fully booked with classes, work, and student organizations but makes time to tutor because she loves meeting the great people in the program which have opened her eyes to different cultures and ways of thinking.  She has become close with all her tutees and she encourages more undergraduate and grad students to apply even though their time is limited.  Christina adds, “Being a tutor in the EIA program is a very rewarding experience!”

  • Letty Pomonareff, Tutor since 2010

    Letty Pomonareff, Tutor since 2010

    Letitia(Letty) Ponomareff has been tutoring in the EIA program since 2010. She  grew up and went to school in the East where she double majored in Home Economics and English and also received a Master's degree in Curriculum Development.  After she graduated, she was recruited by San Diego Unified School District to come here and teach middle school.  She taught for the San Diego School District for 30 years before she retired in 2001.  She started tutoring in the EIA program in 2010 after a book club friend who volunteers at the IC suggested that she might enjoy the tutoring program at the International Center and has now been tutoring in the program for 2 years

    Last year she worked with a PhD candidate from Korea and her current tutee is Olga Kanzheleva from St. Petersburgh, Russia.  Letty states, “Olga is an attractive and extremely intelligent young computer whiz from St. Petersberg, Russia.  She was offered a job at GOOGLE when she  arrived in the US, but due to restricted work visas this has been put off for a year.  Hopefully, this fall she might be able to get a job with them. She is the wife of a PHD Physics candidate at the university.  In addition to working to improve her English skills, since her arrival in the US, she has taken on-line classes from Stanford and a Japanese brush painting class.  Olga and her husband enjoy cycling, camping and rock climbing.  They have already been camping in Yosemite  a few times (even in the snow) and have ridden their bikes from UCSD to the Mexican border.”

    Letty loves working with the younger adults.  She adds, “It keeps you on your toes. Learning more about the cultures of my tutees has been great and I have taken great interest in the world news and politics of their countries.  Also, the program gives me a chance to utilize planning skills that I used as a teacher. “

    Letty’s advice to new tutors is: “You don't have to have teaching experience to be a successful tutor.  All you need is a willingness to help foreign folks out and a desire to share your American cultural experiences and learn about ones from foreign countries.  The EIA can help you with lessons and ideas for your tutoring sessions and other tutors will share their idea sources with you. It's a great experience.

    In addition to tutoring in the EIA program, Letty also volunteers at the Wednesday Morning Coffee sessions (10-12 every Wed.) to practice conversation with international visitors at “Gus’ Table.” Gus volunteered as an EIA tutor at the International Center for over 30 years and recently retired from the program after turning 80 years old. He will be greatly missed, but Letty, Nori Faer and Zella Brown will continue meeting with international visitors at “Gus’ Table” every Wed.  Letty says, ‘It's a great place to practice English and learn about all kinds of things. “

    Thank you to Letty for her continuing dedication and work with our international visitors from many different countries!

  • Carolyn Passeneau, Tutor since 1997

    Carolyn Passeneau, Tutor since 1997

    Carolyn Passeneau, retired Promotions & Patron Services Director of the Theatre & Dance Department at UC San Diego recently received the Chancellor’s Award for EIA Tutor-of-the-Year at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon that was held in May.

    Carolyn began tutoring English to Japanese women and their young children in the English-in-Action(EIA) program in 1997.  Since then, Carolyn has tutored students, scholars and families from Japan, South Korea and China individually and in small groups. "Tutoring has evolved as an art form for me," she says.  Her love for Western & Eastern arts and philosophies coupled with her passion for technological advancements found its perfect home through conversations and excursions with her Asian tutees.  She loves to spend time with her tutees exploring the campus and the San Diego community.

    Over the years, she has made extraordinary connections with the outstanding people she has met through the tutor program. Her former tutees are among her most cherished and trusted friends.  She is an exceptional tutor, not only helping them improve their English fluency but also helping them to overcome cultural barriers and know their consumer rights and other legalities that are not inherent in their native cultures.  Her current tutee, Tianyin Xu, a PhD student from China, does research in Computer Science. They are working on Tianyin’s  presentation skills by viewing and discussing the world-famous Stuart Collection on campus.  Carolyn shared that Tianyin has a keen sense of visual observation and curiosity.  "He makes insightful observations and asks provocative questions that challenge me," Carolyn states, "and, he teaches me about his research." They also plan to explore San Diego County as they seek out ways Tianyin can draw upon these excursions in making good conversation with others and  in making research presentations in his profession. Carolyn is also developing a program, “The Bridge: Western Culture and Language Through the Arts,” where she plans to guide and encourage obervations and dialogues about the works viewed or read together.  Learn more about Carolyn’s new program.

    Carolyn adds that tutoring international students, scholars and their families is a mind-opening experience.  The campus and San Diego area become new to you when you share them with people from other cultures. "Did I forget to mention that it's a lot of fun? The first time you laugh together is magical!"

  • Burt Levine

    Burt Levine

    Burt Levine, a former corporate attorney and native of New York City has been a tutor in the the English-in-Action(EIA) Tutor Program since 1998.  He has tutored over 15 students and scholars from all over the world.  Burt stated that the most enjoyable aspect of tutoring is learning more about the students and their cultures. He has developed life-long friendships with his tutees and stays in touch with most of them.

    Burt’s current tutee is Yeejin Lee from Korea, a PhD student in Electrical & Computer Engineering.  Burt shared that Yeejin is bright and enthusiastic and puts a lot of effort into learning English, as well as in her studies. During Burt’s tutoring sessions, he talks with Yeejin about  US holidays, manners, and current events, and asks her to tell him about holidays and customs in Korea.  He also encourages all of his tutees to take time to explore San Diego and the surrounding area.

    Burt adds that tutoring with the EIA program is a worthwhile and satisfying experience and he believes that the real benefit of the program is that it gives Americans a chance to get to know international students and scholars and to learn about the similarities and interesting differences among the cultures.