Volunteers Helping Newcomers

Our volunteer tutors visit the homes of immigrants and refugees throughout Ottawa to provide one-on-one English language instruction. These volunteer tutors provide essential language training to adults who cannot access regular ESL classes and are often isolated from the communities in which they live. Each tutor is asked to commit 2-3 hours a week to meet with their student and build practical English skills. The match between tutor and student is expected to last at least 10 months, but the benefits and friendships born from these partnerships often live on far into the future.

In November 2007, ELTOC was featured in the Ottawa Citizen through an article written by Kate Heartfield, “Learning the Language”.  This article gives a wonderful insight into the special relationship that is formed between one of our tutor/student matches.

Learning the language

Steps to becoming a volunteer…

1. Self-assessment

  • Are you ready to be a volunteer?
  • Read over the information included here (especially the Frequently Asked Questions).
  • Consider your current time commitments. Can you devote a minimum of 2-3 hours a week for tutoring plus some time devoted to lesson planning, for at least 10 months?
  • Consider your interests and personality. (Do you enjoy helping others? Are you patient and good at guiding others? Are you open to new cultures and worldviews?).
  • If you are ready, then continue.

2. Volunteer Application

  • Download and complete the Volunteer-Application-Form-2018. Then attach and email it to [email protected] You will be asked to provide some basic background information about yourself.
  • If you encounter any difficulties submitting the application, please send us an email.
  • A police check is required. Once our counsellors process the application, one of them will send you a police check request letter which you can take to the police station and have the police check done for free.
  • NOTE: all information collected will be held in the strictest confidence.

3. Orientation Training

  • This course provides an introduction to the methods and techniques of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), as well as tips for working with students.
  • The course is held several times throughout the year.
  • The orientation is 6 hours, usually held on a Saturday.

4. Tutor-Student Match

  • Our staff will match you with a student. Match considerations include such factors as residential location and gender.

5. Begin teaching

  • Now the fun begins.
  • Ongoing support and access to teaching materials are available through our staff and the ELTOC resource library.
  • In addition, see our resources page for an introduction to teaching materials and guides online.


Frequently Asked Questions

Who is a typical ELTOC tutor?

Our tutors are anything but typical.
They come from all social, professional, and academic backgrounds, including some that use to be newcomers to Canada themselves. However, they all share a passion for helping others and assisting newcomers in becoming full participants in Canadian society.

Do I need a teaching background to volunteer?

No, most of our tutors have no prior teaching experience. We provide 6 hours of tutor orientation and additional workshops are held throughout the year. Our experienced staff are also available for ongoing support and our library offers a wealth of teaching and education resources. Success in tutoring is also based on having a sense of humour and bringing an open outlook to life and learning.

Must I be a grammar guru?

Good language skills are important, but for the most part our students need help with understanding and using basic, everyday English. Emphasis is thus given to practical language skills required, for example, to buy food, make a phone call, prepare for a job interview, set-up a bank account, or read daily mail. In addition, students are looking to better understand Canada and Canadian culture.

Who will I teach?

Our students are adult immigrants and refugees from all over the world. Great efforts are taken by our staff to ensure a good match between tutor and student.

Where will the tutoring be held?

The majority of tutoring sessions are held in the student’s home. Many students are housebound (e.g., caregivers, mothers, disabled, etc.) and cannot get out to attend classes. Tutors are matched with students who live within a reasonable distance from their home residence to reduce travel time.