Volunteering sets course for a new career


An unexpected discovery changed the direction of Ana-Leigh Rowe’s career.

Six months into an Anthropology and Psychology degree at Waikato University, the disillusioned 20-year-old returned to her hometown of Palmerston North.

“I felt I was just studying for the sake of it,” she says.

On her return and considering her future, Ana-Leigh completed the ESOL Home Tutoring course at English Language Partners, and it changed her life.

“After the first lesson, I knew it was what I wanted to do,” she says. “I was really surprised how much I loved teaching English.”

She has since enrolled for a Bachelor of Contemporary International Studies at Palmerston North’s IPU, a degree that allows for specialisation in TESOL. She is very excited about starting, and says she has found the energy and drive to study towards something she loves doing.

Diagnosed with a brain tumour five years ago, Ana-Leigh has become legally blind although her close-up sight is okay. “My health is good, but I can’t drive. I rely on buses to get around.”

Ana-Leigh was assigned as an ESOL home tutor to former refugee So Maing Yarbi, from Myanmar, and who, coincidentally, lives six doors down the street. “It is great to be so close. I can walk to So Maing’s house for our weekly lesson,” she says.

Ana-Leigh has created her own collection of resource materials for teaching So Maing, which includes conversational English.

“I spend about two hours preparing each week’s lesson. I try to incorporate what So Maing wants to learn, so depending on what comes up, my work plan may have to change on the day.”

The pair has made good progress and So Maing’s daughter is not required for translation duties as often now.

Ana-Leigh says she has benefitted personally from her ELPNZ tutoring role. “I have become more patient and aware of other’s needs. I’ve also learnt to be adaptable.”

They are all important life skills that will prove invaluable in her future teaching endeavours.

Want to volunteer and learn to teach English?

Story and photo: Leigh Dome

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Volunteer ESOL Home Tutoring

  • Help former refugees and migrants learn English
  • Indepth training course provided
  • Visit learners in their own homes
  • 1-2 hours per week
  • Learn about other cultures
  • Make new friends
  • Give back and make NZ a better place!
  • In all centres
  • Find out more

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