Find out what it’s like to work at Renaisi as Laurette Vanie, ESOL & Employability Tutor, shares her experience of teaching English to refugees and adapting to the pandemic.

Laurette Vanie

Morning class! My name is Laurette and I am one of the ESOL and Employability tutors on the RISE (Refugees into sustainable employment) programme.

I have been a teacher for as long as I can remember, my favourite game to play growing up was teaching my dolls. Trust me it’s a long time ago!

I went through two graduations, one in Business Studies and the second one in Education (lifelong learning). The reason behind my chosen pathway is that I love empowering people and there is no better place to do so than in education.

I started to teach ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) about eight years ago and I’ve worked at Renaisi for two years. I work with a fantastic team of advisers, outreach officers and managers. My team’s objective is to support refugees on their journey towards their goal by giving them the tools to become successful and independent individuals. One of those tools is the English language.  

As well as ESOL, I teach IT, and employability skills. Employability skills might include writing a CV, help to get a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card, a driving theory test, or care support training.

A typical day

No one day is like another because of the integration and settlement challenges refugees and migrants face. Working at Renaisi has given me the opportunity to help refugees navigate complex paths, improve their language skills and their knowledge of the local labour market and culture. The skills and knowledge acquired through learning and education can enhance social inclusion.

In my role I can be a counsellor, a comforter, a listener, an issue-resolver, or a participant might call for the lesson and I end up teaching the whole family! As a tutor, I remind myself that teaching and learning can always take place. I can transform a simple conversation into an English lesson or an English language assessment. Doing all the above and helping the learners gain employment within their chosen industry keeps me alive!

Tutoring through the pandemic

Providing information, advice and guidance is a big part of my day-to-day role at Renaisi. I guide my learners to make informed decisions about training and employment, and more recently lockdown related issues. Since the pandemic began, I’ve worked closely with my advisor colleagues to address participant’s needs, such as access to the internet, insecure housing or food shortage, as effectively as possible.

The pandemic has uncovered unknown talents and aptitudes that I never knew existed in me as I’ve had to create new ways of teaching to maintain satisfactory levels of attendance.  It is a challenge teaching remotely with the distractions of the home environment, especially with pre-entry learners. It’s harder to motivate people remotely but I’ve been posting out homework, sharing YouTube videos, delivering lessons online or over the phone, and even sending lessons via SMS when learners have no access to a laptop.

I’m really proud that as a team we’ve maintained engagement and delivery levels for our participants during lockdown despite the numerous challenges we’ve faced.