Meet November’s Volunteer of the Month, Johann Schiffer

We’re pleased to honor an extremely dedicated tutor, Johann Schiffer, as our November Volunteer of the Month. Johann Schiffer is a dedicated volunteer who has helped launch 826 Valencia’s writing programming in the Tenderloin this fall.  As a poetry tutor at De Marillac Academy, a free Catholic school in the Tenderloin, he helped students delve deeply into issues of identity and community.  Johann often volunteered to tutor for both of program’s weekly sessions, helping two different student groups each week.  Johann’s patience, positivity, and passion for writing helped inspire students to write bravely.  In addition to supporting Tenderloin projects, Johann has volunteered with In-Schools, Workshops, the Young Authors’ Workshop, and After-School Tutoring. We asked Johann to write a little bit about his involvement at 826 Valencia over the years, and here’s what he had to say:

Johann“I have a B.A. in English from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), and an M.A. in English from California State University East Bay (Gooo…Cougars?). I published a creative thesis, a collection of short stories titled Spotlight, which is available for viewing in Cal State’s archives.

As a substitute teacher, a tutor, and a teaching intern, I have set foot in a large variety of classrooms, from kindergarten through college, helping students to become better readers, writers, and above all else, critical and analytical thinkers. I have worked with a wide array of students, in public and private schools, from those who struggle mightily with school, to those who excel at it, but wish to take their writing to the next level.

I started volunteering with 826 Valencia in February, 2014, as an after-school tutor. I remember being filled with with excitement and nervous energy the first time I entered the tutoring center. I had heard and read so many good things about 826 Valencia, and was extremely eager to make a good impression. Thankfully, I had found a place where I was not only welcomed warmly, but also actively encouraged to follow my creative interests. I love the eclectic variety of programs that 826 Valencia has to offer, from helping middle school students explore the blues and haikus in the Tenderloin, to assisting high school seniors with personal statements in the Mission, to lending a hand to aspiring playwrights as they write their own monologues, and later perform them in front of an engrossed audience.

My favorite program; however, has to be the Writing and Publishing Apprentices Workshop, led by Molly Parent, where I transform into a student and a tutor at the same time. Molly begins the class with various creative writing prompts, encouraging students and tutors alike to try different writing tactics and strategies, and step outside of their respective comfort zones (students also develop their own in-depth personal projects, such as short story and poetry collections). The process is invigorating; it’s thrilling to explore the depth of my imagination, while simultaneously watching students overcome mental roadblocks, with their writing, and in turn grow increasingly confident, mature, and comfortable over time, not only academically, but also interpersonally. A symbiotic relationship unfolds, and together we thrive as a writing community.”

We’re touched by Johann’s kind words about his experiences here, and are equally lucky he found the 826 community. Thank you, Johann, for all that you do!

To read about all of our featured volunteers, visit the Volunteer of the Month gallery.