Volunteer Group Profile: Adult Education Hosts

By Penny Williams, Communications Volunteer

“I love taking care of people,” says Adult Education Host Victoria Tool, who joined the team in 2016. In just six words, she illustrates why “Host” has replaced the old title of “Teaching Assistant.” 

When Gillian Drake was appointed VBGA Director of Education in 2009, she began to ask herself what we want this program to achieve. This led to a perception shift: “We want to offer an experience, not a class,” she explains. “The experience is a combination of course content, instructor delivery, being in the Garden, and connection — connection with each other, and with nature.” 

The 20-25 volunteers are no longer there purely to facilitate classroom process. Training now reflects their broader, deeper role as hosts. They welcome participants, chat with them, and help ensure they feel valued, comfortable, and enthusiastic about the entire experience. “We want people to enjoy themselves!” says Gillian. “This can lead to more visits and more engagement.” 

Like Victoria, fellow Host Lynne Irwin takes delight in fostering participant engagement. She does so by drawing on her own deep engagement: she began volunteering with both Adult Education and Visitor Services in 2006, has also served with the Dried Flower Arrangers, and is currently a Garden Guide as well as a Host. “The VanDusen is my family,” she says. “I love being part of it and I love introducing people to it.”