The Perfect Pair

Eva and Tamami celebrate Tamami's birthday in class.

Eva and Tamami celebrate Tamami’s birthday in class.

by Terrie Drake


Eva Fitzwater is a storyteller. Tamami Sonoda is a listener. The tale they have created together is one worth hearing.

Once upon a time, one year ago, to be exact, a young woman moved with her husband to a little town in the mountains named Glenwood Springs.

Tamami and her husband had been living in Tokyo, Japan, and this little mountain town was as different as the Hot Springs Pool is from the Pacific Ocean. The language was certainly different; it had sounds that the young woman had never used before even though she had studied English in Japan. She did not know anyone in the town, so this young woman who had earned a degree in Comparative Cultures at home knew that she would need to be persistent in order to learn the language, find friends and fit in.

Tamami called the local community college to ask about classes to learn English, but the semester was half over. She was given the phone number for a program called Literacy Outreach.

Meanwhile, a woman who had worked for 17 years at the local library as the children’s storyteller and librarian was ready to get a new student at Literacy Outreach. Eva and Tamami met and the adventure began.

A brief six months after Tamami’s Literacy Outreach lessons started, she is now taking classes at CMC. Her goal is to pass both the GED and Accuplacer tests, then to enter an early childhood education program and eventually become a preschool teacher who specializes in neurobehavioral disorders. Asked about her initial motivation to master the culture and language of the United States, she replies that she wants to be able to teach about America to her children when she and her husband become parents.

That’s just the outer core of this story, though. If you meet this pair you will see instantly that Eva and Tamami share both an enormous respect for and a real enjoyment of each other. Eva says this about her student: “She is courageous, ambitious, hard-working. She does her lessons and she does more. Her desire to learn is great. But she doesn’t just want to learn. She is also a giving person, and she gives back to Literacy Outreach by helping with Spellebration and other activities.”

Tamami says, “Miss Eva has a beautiful volunteer spirit. She is always thinking and preparing the right things for me: I can keep my motivation.”

On and on they will show their appreciation for each other. Eva talks about a very unexpected benefit to being a tutor for L.O. It is the “Wealth of her Gratitude” that Tamami shows at all times. Smiling, Tamami responds, “Because you are a really good teacher.”

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