Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Library to Honor Volunteer of the Year

Bernardsville Public Library will honor long-time volunteer Carola Stern at a reception in the library hosted by the Board of Trustees on Sunday, September 25 at 2:00 pm. Ms. Stern has volunteered as a teacher and coordinator for the library’s on-going English-As-A-Second-Language (ESL) classes since 2005.

A native of Finland, Ms. Stern has traveled extensively and lived abroad for many years before settling in the United States with her husband in 1999. In the fall of 2005, her Finnish friend Rita McMaster of L.E.A.R.N. Associates asked for her help in running Bernardsville Library’s ESL program. Ms. Stern ran the afternoon classes which, at that time met once a week, and Ms. McMaster continued to run the evening classes. By 2007, Ms. Stern had taken over coordination of all the classes and volunteer teachers. That year, the Library received a grant for the ESL program which enabled its expansion from two sessions one day a week to four sessions on two days.

“I really enjoy working both with the ESL students and the volunteer teachers,” said Ms. Stern, “It is rewarding to provide this service to the community. Sometimes we have students from as many as twenty-five different countries all polishing their English language skills.” Ms. Stern herself is fluent in four languages and has studied several more. Since Finland is bilingual, she learned Finnish and Swedish as a child. She also speaks English and Bahasa Indonesian fluently having lived in Indonesia as a teenager when her father worked there. She has studied French, German, Spanish, and Japanese in school and Filipino when she lived in the Philippines for several years. When she first married, she lived in Thailand with her husband Michael, an American working abroad, and studied Thai “to get by in daily life in Bangkok.”

In addition to her volunteering at the library, Ms. Stern teaches children swimming at the YMCA including those with special needs. In 2004, she started teaching water exercise at Fellowship Village.

“Bernardsville Public Library gratefully acknowledges Carola’s contribution to the library’s English-As-A-Second-Language program,” said Madelyn English, the Library’s Adult Program Manager, “In addition to her knowledge of many languages, working with different cultural groups comes naturally to her and makes students who might otherwise be self-conscious comfortable when practicing their English.”

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