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ONFE Volunteers in Education Spotlight: Alison Cumminger

Our fifth 2022 volunteer spotlight features Alison Cumminger! Read on to learn more about Alison and why she decided to volunteer in our Volunteers in Education program.

Here’s what a Gloucester High School staff member and student think of Alison’s volunteer contributions:

“Alison has been a virtual volunteer with my class for the past year and a half. She has such a kind approach with our students. Alison has been working with our language learners and she is able to engage them with learning new words and letter sounds. She provides an opportunity for the students to try and make meaning of what they are reading. She has been a wonderful support for our language learners.” — Teacher at Gloucester HS  

“Ms. Alison was the only volunteer I felt comfortable with. I could practice my English with her. She was the nicest. The way she talked to me was so kind. She helped me with my reading. She talked to me about new things in Canada.” — Student A.S.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My husband and I are both retired and live in rural Ottawa with our energetic Brittany Spaniel, Meg. I love to spend time with my family, especially with my daughter in Vancouver and my son and daughter-in-law here in Ottawa. Being active is important to me as is spending time outdoors. In the winter I snowshoe, cross-country ski and curl. Summertime brings opportunities for kayaking, swimming, biking and hiking. I am an avid forager and love to cook with ingredients I have harvested from the wild or from our garden. In the spring, we make our own maple syrup.  

2. What made you decide to volunteer with the Volunteers in Education Program?

I have always been interested in working in the field of literacy. When the pandemic restricted my usual activities and the chance for virtual volunteering opened up, I knew it was time to take up the challenge. Although I would love to work with the kids in person, on-line tutoring reduces my time commitment by removing the commute and makes it easier to work it into my busy life. I have been surprised by how much I enjoy working with high school students and how much we can accomplish in the on-line environment. 

3. Who was your favourite teacher and why?

My favourite teacher was Mr. John Spence, who taught me drama in high school. He nurtured an environment in which I felt safe taking risks. That bolstered my confidence and helped me overcome some of my shyness. Mr. Spence made me feel good about myself and what I had to offer to the world.

4. What is your personal philosophy on life?  

I believe it is important to be curious and open to learning from others and to try and understand the world around me. As I get older, I continue to seek out opportunities to learn and grow and support others in doing the same.  

5. If you could go back to a particular grade level or childhood age, which would it be and why?

I grew up playing outdoors in the woods and I am still doing that now!  If I could visit those years again, I would choose to be about 10 when I was old enough to have some independence, but still young enough to have the innocence of childhood. 

6. What is your favorite hidden gem in Ottawa?

I love the Bytowne Cinema, a historic movie theatre for independent and foreign films. Meeting up with friends for a meal and a movie is a real treat I missed during lockdowns

7. Tell us about a lesson you learned this year. What did it teach you about yourself?

The pandemic has brought focus to who and what is most important in my life. It has challenged me to think creatively about how to connect with others, pursue my interests and continue to develop myself. It has also presented unexpected opportunities such as virtual volunteering with the English Language Development Program at Gloucester High School, learning Spanish on-line, and bonfires with friends and family. I have learned to be less focused on waiting for things to be ideal and more on making things happen. 

If you are interested in volunteering with ONFE’s Volunteers in Education, please visit our program page.

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