Debi Nugent knows what it feels like to struggle in school. As a child, she had difficulties with reading. But she took that challenge and found a way to turn it into a way to help others.
Today, Debi serves as a volunteer at the Linda and Kenneth Hall Buckner Family Hope Center® in Longview, where she teaches English as a second language (ESL) twice a week. As a former reading teacher, she’s able to use similar reading lessons as she did when teaching children for the women in her class learning to read English.
“I always wanted to help children be more comfortable with reading,” Debi said. “And when I saw the opportunity to help here, I realized I could use similar materials and lessons to help students grow their vocabulary and comprehension skills.”
Learning a new language surrounded in community
ESL classes at the Family Hope Center are divided into four levels. Debi helps teach level three – one of the most advanced classes.
“You get into more challenging material here, like why you use verbs in one form with a sentence structure and another form with a different sentence structure,” she explained.
Recently, Debi began “Coffee and Conversation,” where students practice their English while sitting and chatting over a cup of coffee.
“We give them prompts that will help them start conversations, and I’m just available in case anyone needs help with something,” Debi said. “Recently one of the prompts asked, ‘What is unique about you?’ And some students didn’t know the word unique, so I would just ask the question differently, ‘What about you do you think is special?’”
Finding a place to use her gifts
When considering volunteering, Debi realized she still had time to help other people.
“I had done substitute teaching at my daughter’s school, but I felt I needed to get involved more with ministry,” she recalled. “I knew about Buckner because someone at my church has done foster care with Buckner. I knew Buckner did that, but it also did so much more. So, if foster care was not your calling, then there were other things you could be a part of too.”
And as soon as Debi stopped by to see if Buckner could use her help, staff at Longview knew where she could help.
Beyond the enjoyment she gets from teaching, her ESL classes offer her a special fellowship with her students.
“I’ll take a verse from the Bible before each class and we’ll read it together,” Debi said. “We look at different parts of the verse and we discuss the meaning of the message we are reading.”
And the even more remarkable part? It’s not just Debi caring for her students: they also look after her.
When Debi faced some health challenges a few months ago, her students were consistently reaching out to check on her and cover her in prayer.
“My time here is a ministry,” Debi noted. “When I came here, that’s what I sought to do and now I hope to continue being a part of this ministry.”