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2015 Champion Wray Underhill

Boost in self-confidence helps mature learner conquer fear

Wray-Underhill rs For a mature learner, a return to the classroom is often about more than upgrading math and language skills. It’s about building the self-confidence that fosters success.

Even though he was a high school graduate, Wray Underhill had difficulty with reading, spelling and math.

After working sporadically at various jobs, the Brantford resident decided to seek some upgrading.

It wasn’t an easy thing for him to do. “Wray had a lot of anxiety about learning,” said Elizabeth Gosse, an instructor at the Brant Skills Centre who nominated him as an Education WORKS Champion. “He had a difficult time in his previous school experiences.”

With a goal to improve his math skills, Wray turned to the Brant Skills Centre, an organization committed to helping adults improve their literacy and essential skills so that they can increase their independence, go on to further education and training, or obtain and maintain employment.

The centre’s approach to teaching -- one-to-one and small group tutoring – was appealing to Wray.

“The instructors are very good,” he said. “They explain every step.”

Wray began by learning fractions, decimals and percentages. He quickly picked up the rules, said Elizabeth, and moved on to signed numbers, algebraic expressions and, finally, geometry.

In the summer of 2013, Wray signed up for a computer workshop through Brant Skills Centre.

He is now proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, e-mail and the Internet. Still eager to learn, Wray asked the centre’s staff if he could work on his spelling skills. He also conquered more complicated math, including data measurement and trades math.

“Since coming to the Brant Skills Centre he has gotten over his fear of spelling something wrong,” said Elizabeth. “He’s not afraid to make a mistake because he knows he can learn from that mistake.”

Wray continues to attend the centre twice a week. He also spends one day a week volunteering at the Brantford office of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Wray received financial help with his educational pursuits from Ontario Disability Support Program payments and from his mother and aunt.

“I have come a long way from where I was – a person scared to spell, read and talk about my learning difficulties,” said the 46-year-old. “I have been given a chance to show you can do anything when you have the right instructors. I have learned things I thought were out of my reach. They taught me that learning is fun. I’m grateful there are places like this for adults.”

Photo by Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor