VIU Volunteer Tutor Program Supports Students' Specific Learning Needs

June 28, 2018 - 1:45pm

In Grade 9, Matt decided to drop out of school with the belief he would never excel at learning.

A few years later, he decided to upgrade his courses at Vancouver Island University (VIU), and a University counsellor connected him with Literacy Central Vancouver Island (LCVI). Since 1991, VIU and LCVI have partnered to provide a tutor program to assist adult learners on their education journey.

“I learn differently as I have learning disabilities,” he says. “They matched me with a tutor that had patience and was open to teaching me in different ways.”

Math had once been his worst subject in high school, but with the support of his tutors, Matt completed the online course with top marks – earning an A.

“I was put down all my life and made to feel dumb, but with the support of the centre I realized I was capable,” he says.

Matt successfully completed his courses and received his dogwood diploma in June 2018. He now has confidence in his abilities, and hopes to enroll in post-secondary education one day.

Jacqueline Webster, Tutor Coordinator at LCVI, says success stories like Matt’s are why VIU started an additional tutor program in 2017.  The VIU tutor program corresponds with the Adult Basic Education calendar and focuses on students upgrading their Grade 12 or taking first year university courses. The program currently needs more volunteers, specifically to assist with math and science topics.

“We are hoping to attract more peer tutors to the program as they can directly relate to what the students are going through,” says Linda McCandless, Coordinator of the VIU tutor program.

Peer volunteers will soon be able to earn co-curricular credits for their academic transcript.

The yearlong LCVI/VIU program is community based with a strong focus on assisting adults with their literacy goals. “Once they establish their goals, we can help with budgeting, getting a driver’s license, or reading to their children,” says Webster. The program also supports adults with English as a second language.

The LCVI/VIU program supports learners through flexible scheduling, transportation, connections to other community resources, and a VIU instructor teaches relaxation classes. “We recognize that some of our adult learners may have barriers to moving forward in their education, so we try to be supportive in whatever way we can,” says Webster.

The volunteer led programs provides learners the opportunity to develop their skills in a small group or in a one-on-one setting. Sessions are held in a comfortable and safe public place. Tutors usually come from a teaching or educator background, and share a passion for supporting others in their learning journey.

Ron Bonham, a retired VIU English professor, volunteers with both programs as his way of sharing his knowledge with others and remaining active in the community.

Bonham says some learners come for assistance with a specific project, while others need long term support. “I’ve had people whose incredibly difficult life paths have held them back from learning. I have had other students that just need a little extra help to get where they need to go,” he says. “It is uplifting to be able to help learners realize how much they can accomplish.” 

Both programs focus on strength based learning and encourage students to focus on their resilience and determination. “It takes courage to reach out,” says McCandless, “but this is part of your success.”

To learn about the VIU tutor program contact Linda McCandless at

To learn about the LCVI/VIU tutor program contact Jacqueline Webster at



Rae-Anne LaPlante, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6673 | E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Education | learning | literacy | tutor | In the Community

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