Everything Louisa Gaimster does for her learners is ‘for them to be the best they can’.
Louisa and her small group of learners, the ‘Fabulous Five’, meet each Tuesday at the English Language Partners’ centre in Palmerston North.
To deviate from their more traditional lessons and get out in the real world, the group sometimes go on adventures to discover new experiences. “We have been to Te Manawa museum and to our local public park and the Esplanade,” says Louisa.
Even the simple act of buying an ice cream in the park gives the learners practise speaking English and communicating with people. “Everyday interactions like this help them gain confidence and be less afraid of being misunderstood.”
The learners are from Bhutan, Myanmar, Japan and Hong Kong, so their common language is English, and although they’re of mixed ability, they learn from each other too.
“We had a ‘show and tell’ day where each spoke about a treasured possession or experience. “It was really valuable for them to talk about something personal. It was a learning experience for us all.”
Louisa admits there is quite a bit of lesson planning involved for the one-and-a-half-hour weekly class, but she prides herself on providing a comfortable and safe place for learning. “With loads of positive reinforcement.”
“There is also a lot of unexpected laughter in our classes.”
Louisa is a trained nurse. She relocated to New Zealand from the UK eleven years ago.
Having done some writing on a voluntary basis, for the Volunteer Resource Centre, for local newspapers and other community organisations, she was keen to pass on her passion for language and communication.
“I can also empathise as I know what it’s like to move to a new country. As an immigrant, even an English-speaking one, there are a lot of cultural differences you have to get used to.”
When Louisa moved to Palmerston North from the Kapiti Coast she didn’t know anyone, but felt a strong desire to help refugees.
Louisa contacted ELPNZ and offered to ‘help out’. She trained to become an ESOL home tutor and, for the next two-and-a-half years, taught a Burmese refugee.
She has been running her Tuesday group for the past year. A commitment that fits into her part-time work as a nurse in aged care.
She always ensures her Tuesdays are kept free to dedicate to her class and their learning. “Being able to communicate is so important.”
Story and photo: Leigh Dome