Danielle Brister, a U.S. Fulbright scholar pursuing a master's degree in global health in Taiwan, had always been passionate about education and volunteering. It was during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when she stumbled upon an online volunteering opportunity that would change her life forever.
Originally from Arizona, Danielle completed her undergraduate studies in chemistry in 2022. With extracurricular activities canceled and social distancing measures in place, she found herself with more free time than usual. Determined to make a difference, she searched for online volunteering jobs and discovered Paper Airplanes, an organization focused on providing education to individuals affected by conflict and displacement.
"Teaching others is something that is not only beneficial to the student, but it's also a mutual learning experience for both parties," Danielle expressed during an email interview. She had years of teaching experience in violin and academic tutoring, but teaching English was a new endeavor for her. Intrigued by Paper Airplanes' goals and mission, she applied to be an English one-on-one tutor.
Reflecting on her experience working with Paper Airplanes, Danielle emphasized the value of open conversation and engagement in the learning process. "Many people think that teaching always has to be a stringent or structured experience, but I think learning thrives most when there is open conversation and engagement," she shared.
Her journey with Paper Airplanes was filled with numerous positives. Three aspects stood out to Danielle: cultural exchange, building relationships, and personal fulfillment. Teaching English to students from different countries and backgrounds allowed for meaningful cultural exchanges and perspective growth. Moreover, the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with her students brought her joy and a sense of personal fulfillment. Witnessing her students' confidence grow as they achieved their language learning goals was truly rewarding.
Like any volunteer, Danielle faced a few challenges along the way. She mentioned technology-related issues, such as wifi or connection problems, as the main hurdles. Despite these minor obstacles, her dedication to making a difference remained unwavering.
When asked about specific cases or stories that stood out during her volunteering period, Danielle couldn't recall anything in particular. However, she did express how proud she was of her four students. "They all have advanced in English so quickly and have shown relentless dedication to studying and improving their skills. I admire them all so much," she said with admiration and pride.
For those considering volunteering with Paper Airplanes, Danielle had a resounding recommendation. "I highly recommend this program to anyone who loves to teach! It's an extraordinary endeavor, and you'll find such a rich and rewarding feeling in doing it," she enthusiastically shared.
In conclusion, Danielle Brister's journey as a volunteer with Paper Airplanes had been filled with profound experiences and valuable lessons. Through her teaching efforts, she not only made a positive impact on her students but also gained a deeper understanding of the world and different perspectives. Her dedication and passion for education continue to inspire others to follow in her footsteps, making a difference one lesson at a time.