Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Literacy Volunteer Finds Joy in Helping Students

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Literacy Volunteer Finds Joy in Helping Students

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Maraghy, County Line staff writer

Teaching adults to read has been the most rewarding of Tony Amato's many volunteer efforts, the retired oral surgeon said.

"It's such a positive experience," said Amato of Pace Island. "You can see the progress."

For the past six months, Amato has been teaching Irina Boldt,, an obstetrician from southern Siberia, to read and speak English. He is one of about 120 trained volunteer tutors with the Clay County Literacy Coalition Inc., which formed in 1995.

Coalition President Pat Coffman said she'd like to see her organization go out of business, which would mean illiteracy was eradicated in Clay County. But that hasn't happened.

The coalition had 14 students sign up this month, Coffman said, and more tutors are needed.

In recent months, almost half the students have been people who are literate in another language but want to learn English.

Tutors must undergo a three-day training program -- two evenings and a Saturday. The next session begins May 27. Those who complete the training become certified literacy tutors.

The training enables tutors to work equally well with non-English speakers, Coffman said.

"It's not difficult. It takes a lot of caring, patience and flexibility," Coffman said.

Tutors usually meet with students twice a week for an hour. All textbooks and materials are provided.

Amato retired after 12 years of private practice in West Jacksonville, and before that, 27 years in the U.S. Navy as an oral surgeon.

While in Jacksonville, he volunteered with Learn to Read Inc. in Duval County. When he retired and moved to Pace Island, he switched to Clay's program.

Amato said he's been a museum tour guide and has driven cancer patients to medical appointments. But teaching people to read has given him the most satisfaction and enjoyment.

He meets twice a week for an hour with Boldt, who moved to Lake Asbury a year ago when she married a U.S. Navy man. …

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