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Karl Virtue understands the importance of language. A native of Boston, Virtue moved to Houston over 40 years ago taking a job as a writer in public relations.

Now retired, he has volunteered as an ESL instructor at CHRISTUS Learning Center for over 10 years. CHRISTUS Learning Center gives participating students a new lease on life through ABE/GED, ESL, Basic Computer Skills, and Citizenship classes.

“My son is a high school English teacher, and that pointed me toward volunteer teaching when I retired,” Virtue said.

His favorite part of the teaching is the personal relationships. “Volunteering as an instructor is enormously fulfilling,” Virtue said. “In addition to the social aspects of working with the others on the staff, our learners are a joy and teach me, I am quite certain, a lot more than I teach them.”

Virtue also brings his love of computers by teaching the Basic Computer Skills class. When CHRISTUS Learning Center received a donation of old personal computers, he took on the challenge of making them usable to the program. “They were all configured to run on a network,” Virtue said. “Without the network, they were useless and destined for the landfill.” It took him some time, but one-by-one he was able to re-configure and upgrade them for the classroom.

For CHRISTUS Learning Center Manager Olga Rojas having Karl in the program is a relief. “Karl is available to assist any class when a teacher is out sick or on vacation,” Rojas said. She even likens him to a walking encyclopedia. “I have been surprised by all of his knowledge, even with technology.”

With CHRISTUS Learning Center closed due to COVID-19 social distancing measures, Virtue is currently managing his students through telelearning visits. Norma Vargas, the lead ESL instructor, has trained Virtue on teaching via telelearning. “I put a lesson together, and we had our first Zoom class last week,” he said. “It went well, and I am now scheduling our second class.”

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