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Perras tutors through pandemic and beyond

The Needham Community Council had some decisions to make about the English Language Learning program at the onset of the pandemic two years ago. For health and safety reasons, many of the existing tutor pairs did move to online, virtual learning, but many others were forced to take a pause. Today, however, the free English language program for people who live and work in Needham has seen a wonderful resurgence. Through one-on-one or small group learning ELL students have made tremendous progress this year. And so have their intrepid tutors.

Needham resident Rick Perras tutored unflaggingly through the pandemic. His bi-weekly, small group Wednesday ELL class for intermediate learners has now met for over 60 consecutive sessions.

Perras walks this Wednesday class through concepts as wide-ranging as Roe v. Wade to the song lyrics from "Ain’t No Cure for Love" by Leonard Cohen. “I also accept requests from students to add their friends. Many in these email groups infrequently or never respond but I continue sending materials to all email addresses unless Google tells me an address is invalid,” said Perras.

Through the free ELL program at the Council, trained volunteers help adult learners at all levels from all over the world. Tutors help students who are new to the US learn English and adjust to the challenges of living in their new culture. After completing a training, tutors are placed with a student whose schedule matches their own. Pairs then meet regularly once a week, focusing on the student’s particular needs. 

Currently, the program has 42 tutors matched with learners and more waiting in the wings. Perras said of the recent uptick in ELL pairs that it is “not only good for the ELLs, [but] also for Needham society well beyond language learning.” Successful tutors are welcoming, patient, flexible and able to work with a variety of different people. In addition, volunteers should be fluent English speakers and familiar with American culture.  

For more information on the English Language Learners program or to sign up for the next tutor training, contact program manager Julie Tovar ( or visit the Community Council website (

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