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Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement
Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.
"We Are Touching So Many Lives"
On August 18, 2011 in
Diane Kelber (LAE)
“The volunteer tradition in this country is really superb,” says
, a Denver, Colorado production volunteer since 2007. A retired professor with her Ph.D. in Medieval German and Arabic Poetry, Sieglinde taught in the Comparative Literature Program for 27 years at the University of Denver. She lends authority to Learning Ally audiobooks by using her expertise in French, German, Spanish and Arabic.
Sieglinde is a prime example of Learning Ally’s subject matter expert volunteers, who are on hand every day in studios across the country to record difficult, technical and specialized subjects for our members in all different levels in school. During her tenure as a professor, she had several students with learning differences in her classrooms, increasing her awareness of those who are certainly bright but struggle with reading. “I really appreciate that our university has a major disabilities department to help students like these,” she says. With her increased consciousness, Sieglinde one day spotted an ad in the newspaper for Learning Ally volunteers. Her love of literature and experience helping students navigate this world made her a perfect volunteer match. She also reaped a couple of side benefits: “I like the other volunteers…such interesting people!” And there are times when she gets to read a really interesting book, and finds it hard to let go, once her recording session is over. Besides her time spent at the prestigious University of Denver, Sieglinde’s professional successes also include translations of European literature. In 2009, author Herta Müller won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and as a result, Sieglinde’s translation of her book “Nadirs” earned a reprinting. With so many wins and an enviable sunny attitude, it is difficult to imagine Siegelinde’s unfortunate beginnings growing up in poverty in Germany in the 1940s and 50s. Although her father was killed, her mother “…who fought like a lion for all five of us,” nevertheless continually encouraged their education. “As poor as we were, I always felt such love in the family. And there was such strong support for education, and for not giving up. “This is what I really like so much about volunteering. That one helps people who might otherwise get discouraged. There are only rare people who make it on their own against all kinds of obstacles, without any kind of help.” Sieglinde fully appreciates Learning Ally’s ability to reach struggling readers, who may not have the kind of educational support she has always known from her family. She also credits Learning Ally’s helpful staff in Denver, Bob Janowski and Kathy Caver, who she calls a “tremendous help and resource,” making her job as a volunteer easier and more productive.
She also cherishes her new-found days of giving back to the community at her leisure, including volunteering as a docent at the Denver Zoo
and mentoring a young lady from Vietnam in English language skills. “Everything I do now still has to do with education; I just don’t have to grade papers! It has been really fun to be a bit of a resource at Learning Ally. We are touching so many lives!”
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