TIFTON -- The students in Melissa Burtle's adult literacy class are proving that it is never too late to expand their education by learning new skills or brushing up on skills they already have.

Burtle teaches math, reading, spelling, creative writing, reading comprehension and life skills to six students -- most of whom are over 60 years old. The students meet Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. - noon at the Tiftarea Adult Education Center, located at 211 Chestnut Avenue in Tifton.

"These students are such an inspiration to me, and I am very proud of them," said Burtle, who has been teaching the class for one year. "They work hard and love to learn. The class is very broad-based, and I try to relate everything the students learn to their day to day lives. There is a lot group interaction, and they have a lot of fun. Attending the class has definitely helped the students gain more self confidence in themselves and in their work."

Burtle said the students may come to the class for different reasons and focus on different areas, but they all have one thing in common: a strong desire to learn.

Juanita Cole of Ty Ty, who has been attending the class for about two and a half years, said she really looks forward to class and enjoys working with Burtle.

"I like the group setting," Cole said. "It's a nice social environment, and we all have a lot of fun. I love math and reading, especially Bible stories."

Developing and improving reading skills is one of the main goals of the class. To achieve this, the students read a variety of different texts, including books about women in history and biographies. The students are currently reading their first novel: "Sounder" by William H. Armstrong. As they read, they complete exercises to develop their vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. The students have also started writing exercises.

Luther Johnson of Tifton has been attending the class for more than five years. He said his reading skills have improved a great deal during that time.

"I love coming to class," added Loretha Coney of Tifton, who has been a member of the class for about a year. "The other students are like brothers and sisters to me. We laugh and have a lot of fun. Melissa is a great teacher, and I enjoy working with her.

"I love math, and I am working on my reading comprehension. I really feel the Lord has blessed me by leading me to this class."

The adult literacy class is offered through Literacy Volunteers of America/Tifton-Tift County, which works in close collaboration with Moultrie Technical College (MTC). The college provides funding for all educational materials as well as the instructor's salary.

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