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Volunteer Spotlight: ESL Teacher’s Aide Laura Podell 

December 12, 2023

Canal Alliance is thrilled to announce the nomination of Laura Podell as Volunteer of the Year for the 31st Annual Heart of Marin Awards hosted by the Center for Nonprofit Volunteer and Leadership. Laura started her journey as an online teacher’s aide in our English as a Second Language Classes (ESL) in January of 2020 and has continued to volunteer every trimester since.  

Laura is now in her third year of volunteering in Canal Alliance’s ESL program and has completed nine trimesters of service helping Latino immigrants whose first language is Spanish or an indigenous language. During the first two trimesters, Laura volunteered one night a week, like most of our volunteers. Over time she increased her commitment, now dedicating four nights a week of her time to Canal Alliance. 

Laura cares about the wellbeing of her students. In her second year, when there was flooding in the Canal, she contacted Canal Alliance staff to inquire about the welfare of the students and asked if there was any way that she could help. As a volunteer, Laura takes time to make sure she can make a connection with her students to make sure their needs are being met. In one class, she worked with a student who was very hesitant to speak in the group setting. Laura worked with the student and made her feel comfortable enough to move past her shyness by talking about her family.  

“I find a subject that my students are passionate about, which helps to draw them out of their shells and learn the English words needed to talk about the subjects that interest them the most,” says Laura. 

Laura exemplifies the collaborative spirit of Canal Alliance’s culture. Her nomination as Volunteer of the Year recognizes Laura’s efforts as an individual and honors the collective impact that all the volunteers have on the organization. 

“Empowering the Latino Immigrant community and promoting education is possible thanks to the dedication from volunteers like Laura,” says Ivonne Molina, Canal Alliance’s Engagement & Stewardship Manager. “Thank you, Laura, and all of our volunteers. We could not do what we do without you.” 

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