The tutors and teachers at Mid-State Literacy Council are from all walks of life. For one volunteer, Tom Hettmansperger, teaching has been a lifelong path. He was a faculty member for 41 years in the Department of Statistics at Penn State and spent a significant amount of his career working and teaching in Australia, Finland, and Switzerland. Though clearly in harmony with other cultures and countries, he came to the Mid-State Literacy Council in 2006, while still working, with the desire to do something for the State College community. He then retired and continued to use his talents to help others through the power of learning. Now, in 2019, Tom will be teaching his 31st class at Mid-State Literacy Council.
His well-loved American Short Stories class has multiple, complementary goals: to practice reading English and comprehension, increase vocabulary, practice pronunciation, learn about American culture, and increase pleasure in reading via analysis of stories. In his time at Mid-State, he has found that the most rewarding part about the experience is the interaction with students. “I think they are incredibly brave and strong, and I am privileged to help them a bit and get to know some of them.” He noted that many students arrive from all over the world with spouses or partners. “In their home countries they had many and varied occupations, but here they often don’t have separate identities. With their significant other often at work at the university, they are left to navigate a new community with English as a second language.” When asked about Mid-State, he said that it “provides a social community for the students that I believe enriches their lives.”
His wife is an artist and musician and owns the Gallery Shop in Lemont. Together, they have a daughter and son in Colorado who are both high school teachers and a daughter in South Carolina who owns her own small business. And in State College – indeed, throughout the world – there are many who can say that Tom inspired, enlightened, and, quite simply, taught them well.