Monday, October 6, 2014

Teacher Inspires Adult English Learners

Photo of Sister Georgene Faust tutoring Rio Salado student Nicolas Lopez
Imagine living in a world where the text you see, the words you hear, and the culture that surrounds you is almost impossible to decode. How do individuals in this situation manage their most basic needs? Who can they turn to for help and support?

The answer is Sister Georgene Faust!

Faust is a highly dedicated and qualified educator who has devoted her life to academically advancing and empowering others. She spearheads an English as a Second Language (ESL) literacy foundations class at Rio Salado College Downtown.

“The reading foundations course prepares students to take the next step in life,” Faust said. “It teaches students the most basic fundamental skills of literacy, from writing a single sentence to completing a full-length essay.”

Designed specifically for adults, the reading foundations class invites students of all ages and literacy levels to improve on their basic reading, writing and comprehension abilities. The key feature is the use of intensive phonics to help students decode words to improve reading and writing skills.

“People at different levels are really learning, and they build these very basic skills systematically,” Faust said. “They are learning the tools they need to be successful and to reach higher levels of education.”

Faust first became acquainted with ESL courses when a long-time friend and colleague of the Scottish Rite approached her about volunteer work. She immediately recognized the need for such courses throughout the Phoenix area.

“It’s an incredibly supportive and rewarding experience for the students, just as much as it is for me,” Faust said.

Faust volunteered at Rio Salado’s downtown location, where she has been teaching courses for more than 20 years.

Photo of Nicolas Lopez
Nicolas Lopez is one of Faust’s current students. Originally from southern Mexico, he dropped out of school after sixth grade to relocate to the United States and start a business.

“I didn’t have a need for schooling or English literacy at first because my customers were Spanish-speakers,” Lopez said. “But then suddenly I had to close my business, and I realized that I needed to do something.”

Lopez’s wife had received her high school equivalency through a Rio Salado prep program, and encouraged him to sign up for classes.

“I couldn’t be happier with my decision,” Lopez said. “Sister Georgene is such a great teacher and she really understands the needs of her students.”

Lopez describes his time in the classroom as personally rewarding and professionally invaluable. He feels motivated and inspired every day to keep working and learning.

“Every time I learn something new it is very exciting,” Lopez said. “Everyone in the class is so supportive and truly wants to see you succeed. We all have very different backgrounds, but we want to help each other.”

Lopez is now pursuing his high school equivalency and hopes to continue his education through Rio Salado’s Maricopa to ASU Pathways Program to obtain his degree.

To learn more about Rio Salado’s college bridge pathway opportunities for adult learners visit

This story can also be found in the Oct. 4, 2014 edition of the Tempe Republic. By Aubrie Artiano, PR Coordinator at Rio Salado College