Wellspring English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) tutor and volunteer Gene Ehlert Helps Student Achieve English Proficiency and Realize Entrepreneurial Dreams

When Gene Ehlert joined Wellspring as an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) volunteer and tutor, he was very excited to share his time and talents helping individuals improve their English-speaking skills. Despite joining the organization during the latter half of the Coronavirus pandemic, Gene was determined to help individuals on a consistent and reliable basis.  

For the past two years, Gene has been working solely with Gloucester resident Beato Payano, a former tennis professional in his native Dominican Republic, (DR) and the new owner of AB Barber on Main Street in downtown Gloucester. During their one-to-one hour of time together each week, Gene worked with Beato to help strengthen his reading, pronunciation and conversational English skills. 

Beginning their work together in the second half of 2021, Beato and Gene have become quite the team. In addition to sharing a love of tennis, (both Beato and Gene play regularly) they also share a love for personal growth, learning, and finding ways to acclimate to life’s challenges. In fact, when they were paired together, COVID was still a major issue on the North Shore. 

Masking policies were still in place and social distancing was highly recommended, which made learning challenging. Collaborating regularly each week, Gene and Beato found new ways to communicate: Beato added body cues to demonstrate understanding and comprehension, Gene spent extra time talking about the week’s lessons, and they conversed (in English) about as many subjects as possible.  

As a Wellspring ESOL tutor, part of Gene’s support is to work alongside Beato to read stories in English. Once masking mandates lifted, their interactions became easier, and because they tackled story comprehension together so well during the pandemic, it was easier for Gene to help Beato with his pronunciation of English words and phrases.  

“Only part of what we do is read. Our book is full of stories, and we go through the questions about the stories to check if he’s understanding concepts, meanings and motivations of the people in the stories,” Gene said.

According to Gene, Beato mastered comprehension very early on, so most of their time together is spent discussing the meanings, concepts and pronunciations of words and phrases rather than the story concepts themselves. 

Gene says these discussions helped Beato to better converse in English, and that Beato’s challenges (if any) at this point are mostly just pronunciation. He’s come along quickly, and his comprehension is very good. We talk about everything: his family, my family, life, and of course Tennis,” Gene said.  

In 2024, Gene and Beato will enter their third year of working together in Wellspring’s English for Speakers of Other Languages program.

In the next phase of their work, Gene will help Beato transition from learning conversational English to understanding the facts he needs to know to accomplish his next life goal as a recently emigrated father, business owner, and well-respected member of the Gloucester community: passing the United States’ Naturalization Test! 

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