Literacy tutor receives John W. Coombs Award

Posted Nov. 02, 2011, at 1:06 p.m.
Longtime literacy volunteer Phil Locke with one of his students, Hoang Lam, at Hoang’s graduation from Eastern Maine Community College in 2009.
Courtesy photo
Longtime literacy volunteer Phil Locke with one of his students, Hoang Lam, at Hoang’s graduation from Eastern Maine Community College in 2009.

BANGOR — On Oct. 6, Bangor resident Phil Locke received the top volunteer distinction — the John W. Coombs Award — during the 2 Those Who Care Ceremony sponsored by WLBZ 2 at Gracie Theatre on the Husson campus. A retired math professor with a 40-year career — mostly at the University of Maine — Locked spends his spare time teaching English to English language learners, maintaining the Orono Bog Boardwalk, collecting critical wildlife data for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and playing fiddle the Marsh Island Band.

Literacy Volunteers of Bangor submitted Locke’s nomination which includes letters of support from nearly 20 leaders, recipients of services, and friends from four organizations.

His service as an English tutor with LV-Bangor is nothing short of impressive. Since starting in 2004, he has helped more than 20 adults with low literacy, including reading, conversational English, and math skills. Locke works independently with four to five adults much of the time. He averages more than 300 hours a year of service a year and has conservatively donated more than 2,200 hours of time since he started working with LV-Bangor.

Locke’s experiences as a literacy tutor are also diverse. He has taught English to a group of South American businesspeople during one summer. He works with foreign language students studying at a postgraduate level at the University of Maine. He travels to a dairy farm to teach basic English to Central American farmworkers. He has taught math in preparation for the general equivalency diploma to incarcerated women at the Women’s Reentry Center in Bangor.

Locke worked with one student for five years. Hoang Lam, a Vietnamese immigrant, struggled with conversational English when the two met in 2006. Through determination and Locke’s help, Hoang entered and later graduated with an electrical and automation technology degree from Eastern Maine Community College. In May 2011, Locke witnessed Hoang’s second graduation. This time, Hoang received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology from the University of Maine. Now a naturalized citizen and employed as an engineer, Hoang credits his American dream story to Locke, “one of his best English teachers.”

The 2 Those Who Care Awards ceremony will be televised on WLBZ 2 on Saturday, Nov. 5. For more information about this award and other award recipients, go to http://www.wlbz2.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=175363.

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