Category Archives: Tutors

Deborah Robbins


By Rachel Ma

The first time I saw Deborah was in the classroom of English Conversation class. I don’t remember what we talked about, but her smile really impressed me, which was like a warm breeze in a cold winter.

The interview was conducted at Deborah’s home. Her living room was very wonderfully bright, cozy and comfortable. Deborah likes knitting. She organized a knitting group and has welcomed the participation of everyone. By the way, Deborah had just taught me how to knit a scarf. I really enjoy the process. Influenced by her, I think I start to fall in love with knitting.

In her house there are a lot of beautiful small ornaments such as small bottles and extremely attractive teacups. What a perfect life! She decorates her house beautifully, warm and clean. While she was sitting in a comfortable chair, I sat on the carpet near her. I remembered that I always enjoyed the time sitting around my grandmother and listening to her reading some stories to me.

Deborah’s family emigrated from Europe to America. Her mother’s ancestors came from Denmark and her father’s mother’s family came on the Mayflower from the England.


Deborah was born in Michigan. The weather there is colder than New Jersey. During her childhood she had a lot of fun. She iceskated and made snowmen in winter. But before Deborah grew up, she moved away from there, and started her school life.

When Deborah was 17, she left home and went to college in Ohio. She had to move again. But Deborah said that she actually enjoyed moving: new environment, new friends, and everything new.

When she was 21 years old, she met her first husband. They moved to Boston together, where they studied and worked. After 5 years, they moved to New York. When Deborah left her husband, she decided to go back to Boston, and started to study library science.

Among our conversation, the thing I have remembered most is Deborah’s bicycle travel. She and her husband took part in a 6-week bicycle travel when she was 23. It was amazing! I couldn’t believe how adventurous Deborah was before. She looks so gentle and kind. They set out from Boston, crossed the entire United States, and arrived in Vancouver in Canada. Every day she rode 70-80 miles. This was also very romantic when she and her husband rode together and encouraged each other. When they arrived in Vermont, she faced a steep road, her husband was always by her side, and her husband told her, “Come on! You can do it! ” I asked Deborah whether they had photographs. Deborah shook her head and said,” We did not take any pictures. Now, many people take lots of pictures. But our pictures are in our mind, and this is the best and most impressive photos.” Deborah’s face was full of memories and happiness.

At the age of 28, Deborah met her second husband, David Robbins, who is most important to her. They met in New Hampshire, then got married and had lived in New York and Virginia before they moved to New Jersey.

Inspired by Deborah’s father, Deborah started to learn Recorder after she moved to Princeton. She met a very good teacher and was able to improve her skills dramatically. Then she started to teach children to play the recorder soon by herself. Because of this work, her life and music cannot be separated. I asked her in the interview, “What influence do you think music has had on your life?” She told me that the music had made her more enjoy her life.

After she moved to Princeton, Deborah was pregnant and gave birth to a boy. Now her son lives in New York and he is musician. Deborah showed me a picture. In the photograph, her son looked very handsome and stood next to his wife, who is a pianist. Deborah’s son plays the piano very well too.

Ten years ago when her husband died, was the worst time period in her life. She had to keep working and working so that the busy work schedule could help her pay less attention to the fact her husband passed away. When she said this, I could feel her pain and sadness and couldn’t help wanting to hold her and comfort her. But Deborah responded me with a smile. I knew that David did not leave her andtheir love would be with her forever.

When I asked what encouraged Deborah to do voluntary work, her eyes filled with happiness. She told me that she liked to make friends, and she loved everything here. In China, working as a volunteer is relatively less common. Volunteers here give up their free time, and help us with patience. I admire them very much.

I asked Deborah, “Do you have any plan for your future?” She told me that she wouldn’t leave Princeton. Since she has best friends here, and she would teach the students and continue being a volunteer.

=> This article was reviewed by Deborah Robbins



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Walter Frank


It is his smile that gives you Walter’s first good impression. A spontaneous smile of a happy man, at peace with himself, conscious of how blessed he is for the very good life he has had; a good life that, in my opinion, he completely deserves.

A very long marriage with the woman he loves, two children—David and Rebecca, now adults,— a grandson and a job he liked are the milestones of his life.

He has been retired for ten years, after spending thirty years as a lawyer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the last ten as Chief of Commercial Litigation.    He loved his job and got along with colleagues, –some of them are still good friends.

When his family needed a bigger house, 28 years ago, they moved from NYC to Princeton. For many years he had to commute to NYC, but it didn’t bother him: “On the train you can do many things, it isn’t a waste of time,” he told me.

Walter likes to travel (who doesn’t !) even when he was working. He told me about a trip to Italy he took with his wife many years ago, when she was pregnant and had to postpone the date of the trip because of her pregnancy. He told me about Milano, Venice, Florence and how he learnt to express himself by gesture, like Italians do. He and his family have already visited many countries in their life, but the list is still long; many others are waiting for a visit soon —Scandinavia, Greece, Israel etc etc.

With his children he has always had a good relationship, even when they were little. The only thing he regrets is that he didn’t have too much time to spend with them when he came home from work, just a kiss and good night.

When I asked him about food, he stopped me: “My mother used to call me Noodle, guess why? I love pasta, any kind of pasta,” and continued: “with just a little sauce, because I love pasta itself.” He also goes with his wife to restaurants —Chinese and Japanese are their favorite,— but pasta is better at home.

Walter is a lawyer. He is very interested and has a strong knowledge about Constitutional law. Retirement gave him the opportunity, time and Joy to write and publish two books about Constitutional law, and the idea of a third book is on its way. The third one will be about a different topic, but it’s a secret not yet revealed.

Last question was: when was the last time you kissed your wife? Prompt answer: Yesterday night.

Thank you Walter.

=> This article was reviewed by Walter Frank


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Bill (William Traubel)

by Fernanda Rosa


Except through literature, movies or documentaries, there are not many opportunities to know better the life history of people who participated actively in dramatic events of the world.

Even after a conversation of no more than a few minutes with William Traubel, or just Bill, you can realize that you could stay talking with him for hours, interested in better understanding what means to be an American Career Army Officer for 21 years, who during his service lived in no less than nineteen different residences in three countries, served in the Vietnam War and started to build his own family during the conflict.

Bill was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he went to Central High School, a university preparatory institution that used to be an all boys school. It was during that time, at a church dance, where he was to meet Bunny, his future wife. She was performing a fast 60’s dance wonderfully well when he noticed her. It was love at first sight! Quickly, he invited her for a slow dance and just there they started to date. She was 14 and he was 16 years old.

After realizing that their schools were very close, every day, minutes before the class time, Bill and Bunny sat on a bench in the boulevard between the girls’ school and the boys’ school, held hands and stayed together as much as they could. Even after forty years, these moments represent an unforgettable time for him.

After graduating from the high-school in 1962, Bill went to West Point, a 4-year Military College in New York. Although he was already anxious to marry Bunny, that school didn’t allow its students to get married. The rules, however, didn’t mention anything about getting engaged, so Bill proposed to Bunny in a very special place: the same bench where they used to date years ago. In 1966, he graduated and got married the same week.

Between the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the couple had four children: Will, Becky, Cate and Em, and Bunny left college to take care of them.

While this period has been remarkable for their family, it was also a crucial moment for American History, in which Bill played a part.

At the end of the 60’s, the Vietnam War (1954-1975) was at its peak, and Bill, a U.S. Army Officer, was sent to serve there. The United States were supporting South Vietnam against both the advance of communism from the North and the Soviet domination in the region. Bill was responsible, with his team for building fire bases with helicopter landing areas, field fortifications, obstacles and bunkers in South Vietnam’s dense jungles. This was a way to prepare the field for possible combat and to protect the Armies of the United States and the Republic of Vietnam from the North Vietnamese Army and the “Viet Cong” – a South Vietnamese guerrilla force.

During his time in Vietnam, Bill had feelings of homesickness. He remembers in detail the Christmas Eve of 1968, when he was far from his wife and his two babies, days after his father’s funeral that he was flown home to attend. Returning to Vietnam just at Christmas time was very difficult.


Protest Pro and Anti-Vietnam War at Indiana University (1967)

About his experience in the war he says: “I am proud about my service. The opposite of pride is shame. I am not ashamed about my service. I served my country.”

When he came back, Bill was awarded by the Army a scholarship to begin a master’s degree in Science and Engineering at Princeton University. He is part of the class of 1972. After graduating, he taught Mathematics at West Point Military College and continued his Army career in the United States and Germany.

With Bunny, he also saw their children get married and gave big wedding parties for their three daughters, maintaining the family tradition.

Bill retired in 1987, but from 1987 to 2009, he continued using his engineering skills to work for the Universities of Princeton and Massachusetts.

Nowadays, Bill continues to be very active as a volunteer. Teaching English at the Princeton Conversation Group is only one of his appointments. He also volunteers at West Point, the Presbyterian Church, the American Legion, Washington Crossing Historic Park and takes care of unknown soldiers’ graves. Also, he works as a History tour guide, a mystery shopper and a Math tutor.

At the end of our conversation, when I asked Bill about what he would like to do more in his life, his answer was simple: “To devote more time biking and playing golf”.


Bill tutoring international students



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Nancy Silver


by Julia Khait

The first thing that needs to be said about Nancy is that she is one of the most optimistic persons I’ve ever met. She has such a great feeling of happiness and gratitude for everything that has happened in her life, that it is really worth adopting !

Nancy has had a very rich experience in the educational sphere. She is a teacher herself: she has taught Language Arts at all levels of public school and in courses at Monmouth College. She has also worked as an Administrator of Curriculum and Instruction, helping teachers in working out their own courses, finding textbooks, etc. As a training teacher, she has visited a lot of countries, including Argentina, China and Russia, among others. There she had a wonderful opportunity to exchange her teaching experience with other teachers from the different countries.

After her retirement, Nancy stated two main goals to achieve. The first one was to immerse herself in another culture. As an English teacher she spent a year in Prague working for a language company. She worked with pilots and air traffic controllers advancing their English, as English  is the international language in all the communications between pilots and air traffic control officers all over the world. The same work she did in Georgia and Ukraine. So, when you will go somewhere by plane, think about it,  maybe it is that very pilot that Nancy has taught!

The second goal was to speak at least one more language. She decided to study French because she loved its sound. For this purpose, she took one course of French, however, she considers herself more self-taught. She also went to live in France and made a lot of French friends. Practicing French with native speakers helped her to improve her language, as well as helped her French friends  improve their English.   Nancy and her new French friends spent half of their conversation time speaking French, and the other half of the time speaking English. However, her main advice for everybody who studies foreign languages is to find their own learning style.

The most important thing that Nancy has learned during her life is that basically,  we all are the same and that it is possible to understand each other  and our differences.  People from different parts of the same country are  different from each other as well.  Nancy grew up in Boston where people are more conservative and reserved. It might sound curious, but for her was even harder to adjust to New Jersey than to Prague!

Nancy moved to Princeton in 2004, and since then she has been a tutor at the English Conversation Group. She finds it really amazing to talk to people from the four corners of the earth. More than that, it gives her a lot of energy and keeps her young!

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Deborah Robbins

Deborah Robbins

By Daiane Tamanaha

Collaborators: Eusil Lee, Sanghee Yu and Pinseung Cho

Many people don’t like to talk about age.  But Deborah Robbins doesn’t care. Probably because she looks younger than she is. Youth is not only in her appearance; it’s also in her mind. She likes to be active, to exchange knowledge. When her friend Alison, who is the coordinator of our English conversation group, invited her to be a volunteer tutor, she didn’t hesitate in accept it. Deborah thought that it could be an interesting experience for her. We have to say she’s right!

Who she is – Deborah was born in Detroit, Michigan. She has one son, who is married to a Korean girl. Her husband, who worked for a company in Princeton, passed away 10 years ago. Deborah has been retired only for three years. She worked at Princeton Junior School teaching music for children.  

She is graduated in Middle East Studies from the College of Wooster, in Ohio. During her junior year, Deborah lived in Beirut, Lebanon. It was an unforgettable experience.  Deborah and her friends had to leave Beirut earlier than they were planning. The 1967 June War broke out and they had to be evacuated.  

Deborah has another degree. When she moved to Boston, she started studying again. She graduated from Simmons College in Library Science. Now, you might be asking yourself, how has music entered in her life? In order to answer this question, we need to talk about her father. He was a music teacher in an elementary school. One day, he sent a recorder to Deborah and she tried to learn how to play a recorder by herself. It worked so well that she decided to work with music for living.

Hobbies and passions – Deborah also likes folk dance. She is a folk dance teacher as well. Let’s ask her to teach us how to dance it? However, her great passion as a hobby is knitting. She made herself a curtain! We should create a knitting group too!! Deborah says knitting is sort of a therapy for her. We are wondering if music, dance and knitting are her secret of youth. They might be.


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Dartha Cabot Hopkins


by Michiko Yamashina

Dartha Cabot Hopkins was born in Virginia in a Navy family as one of two daughters. She traveled a lot as her father’s assignment changed. She entered Duke University, transferred to Stanford University, and came back to Duke where she graduated with a major in psychology for education. She earned a master’s degree from Adelphi University in special education focusing on reading disability including dyslexia, autism and ADHD.

Her husband, who also spent time in the Navy, earned a PhD in oceanography. Because of his research, they moved to many places, and she taught in many elementary and middle schools in California and North Carolina, and also taught American military children in Greece for four years and Italy for six years as an American Department of Defense teacher.

She says that the keys of developing learner’s reading ability are finding their strengths, and reinforcing and repeating important matters.

She enjoys volunteering for the conversation group in Princeton University because she meets students there from all over the world. She likes to volunteer because it gives her flexibility and also allows her to contribute to her community.

=> This article was reviewed by Dartha Cabot Hopkins

Dartha and Michiko

Dartha and Michiko


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Anna Dombrowski


by Eunsil Lee

Anna Dombrowski was born near Pittsburgh in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Her grandparents immigrated to the US from Poland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  They came to the US to work in the steel mills near Pittsburgh. Her parents were born in the US, but spoke Polish. She grew up where she was born, in a small mill town near Pittsburgh. She is one of five children. They grew up learning some Polish words and phrases, but didn’t learn to speak, because her grandparents wanted them to only speak English.

She has lived in Princeton since 1986. That year, she finished law school and married her husband who started here as an assistant professor in Electrical Engineering in 1985. She met Mansour, her husband, at the first party she went to as a freshman in college. The college she attended was Wellesley, an all-women’s college. Mansour was a student at MIT. He had helped his sister move into the dorm and came to a party with her in the evening. He tried to show Anna how to dance to disco music, but he was a terrible dancer. Anna had told him that She played tennis, but she didn’t tell him that she was a terrible player. The next day, he came to visit her and brought tennis racquets and balls so they could play. He was very patient and nice, so she liked him. She figured they were even — he was bad at dancing and she was bad at tennis!

They have three children. Rameen is 23. He graduated from college and majored in religion. He also is a musician, who makes guitars and is currently learning to make violins in Pennsylvania. Leila is 20 and is studying neuroscience, applied math and German. Komron is the youngest child at 16. He’s in high school and likes science, too. He plays soccer and squash, so they watch a lot of soccer on TV, especially the German soccer league. They’re fans of the Bayern Munich soccer club. She’ll miss Komron a lot when he goes off to college.

She worked for several years as an attorney for the State of New Jersey. Mostly, her work involved writing draft decisions for the Appellate Division. She also worked for the Office of Attorney Ethics, which makes sure lawyers in New Jersey behave in the best interests of their clients.

She also has a MA in Art History. When she was a graduate student, she gave tours at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and taught first year students Introductory Art History. When they first lived in Germany in 1993, they lived in a small village outside of Munich. She spoke very little German then and it was quite lonely. They next spent 7 months in Munich in 1997 and they really enjoyed living in the city. Her older children went to school there and she learned more of the language, so they made friends then that they still have today. Since those early years, they’ve returned to Munich every other summer, for as much time as they can spare.

 Her neighbor, Irene White, encouraged her many years ago to volunteer through the International Center, but she didn’t have time to dedicate to the program then. About 4 years ago, once her children were older, she started to volunteer. She primarily works as an individual tutor and finds it fascinating to learn about the research areas of her students. She enjoys the group sessions too, because it’s fun to have a conversation with many students from different countries and to learn about their opinions and experiences.

Anna and Eunsil

Anna and Eunsil

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My Tutor In The YWCA

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By Lijie Wang

A couple of Saturdays ago, my tutor, Dudley, and I gave a presentation at the YWCA for new ESL tutors. That was my first opportunity to speak in English in public. It was an excellent experience.

I was very nervous at first, but Dudley encouraged me with some jokes. Then I felt comfortable and became relaxed. We demonstrated some of the language learning exercises an ESL student does in the English lessons. I like the teaching skills Dudley uses in my lessons. He made some unique sentences for me to practice. The sentences are also very interesting such as “Washington’s washer woman washed Washington’s woolens when Washington went to Wilmington, Delaware to win the American Revolutionary War.” “I made an error. I shot an arrow into the air, it landed I know not where,” for example.

I like the sentences Dudley made up for me. They are not only interesting, but also very helpful for me to practice improving my English pronunciation, especially in those areas which are difficult for me, like “w’s” and “r’s.” When I tried to say those sentences in the presentation, I saw that some tutors were surprised to hear the sentences I said, and heard that they were discussed with each other. They cheered for my tutor and me.

Those new tutors will teach students coming from different countries to the YWCA. Most of the students are adults who already have their own language speaking habits. It is really difficult for the tutors to help the students speak English well. My tutor, Dudley, is an outstanding teacher. He is familiar with teaching skills and has enthusiasm to teach ESL students like me.

=>This article was reviewed by Dudley Sipprelle (He is tutoring in the  YWCA)


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Linda Sipprelle

Linda Sipprelle

 by Michiko Yamashina

 Linda Sipprelle, who has an identical twin sister, was born in Bucharest, Romania, the daughter of a U.S. Diplomat.  As a child she lived in Chile, Brazil and India and graduated from high school at the Sanford School in Delaware.  She earned a B. A. Degree from the University of Redlands in California and a post-graduate Teaching Fellowship from UCLA’s Demonstration School.  While a college undergraduate, Linda married a fellow classmate, Dudley.

After Dudley became a diplomat, Linda lived in Colombia, Sweden, Turkey, Venezuela, Austria and Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic.  She taught English at a girls high school in Izmir, Turkey and at the American School in Santo Domingo.

Linda is the mother of four boys.  Since she thinks that family is the most important thing in life, she didn’t have nannies when her boys were growing up even though she was very busy.  She also tried to help her sons adjust to their new schools in each country.

In 1987, Linda became a diplomat herself and was posted as a political officer to U.S. Embassies in Rome, Mexico City and Vienna as well as in Washington, D.C.  She worked on many bilateral issues representing U.S. Government interests.

Linda has not only made significant contributions in her professional life, she is an athlete as well.  She has held seventeen American track and road-running records and was the winner of gold, silver and bronze medals at world championships.  She received an award from the Olympic committee of the Dominican Republic for being the first woman to compete in a road race in that country and for being a role model for Dominican women and girls.

After moving to Princeton in 2005, Linda became an active volunteer.  She began tutoring English for the Friends of the Davis International Center (FDIC) and later became the FDIC president.  She was also a member of the Princeton Borough Affordable Housing Board and is currently a Governor appointed Commissioner on the Princeton Housing Authority.  She received a Tribute to Women Award from the YWCA Princeton in March, 2013.

One of Linda’s future dreams is competing in the Senior Olympics as she continues training several times a week.  Linda’s eyes are always shining as she looks forward to the future.

Linda and Michiko

Linda and Michiko


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Linda Sipprelle Talks the Talk and Walks the Walk


by Daiane Tamanaha

Thursday, March 7, 2013 was a special night for Linda Sipprelle, her family and her friends.  She was the recipient of the prestigious Tribute to Women Award given by the YWCA Princeton.  The award recognizes women who have made significant contributions to their professions and communities, “changing in some ways other people’s lives” said Ms. Brenda Ross-Dulan, Regional President, Wells Fargo Southern New Jersey, in her speech at the Hyatt Regency Princeton, where the event took place.

Linda Sipprelle fits this description perfectly.  She is a source of inspiration for many international students who have lived in the Princeton area.  She is dedicated to promoting cross-cultural competence and understanding and has been central to a better integration of international students into American society.

It is hard to overstate Linda Sipprelle’s exceptional role in the Friends of Davis International Center (FDIC) at Princeton University as a tutor, former president of the FDIC and current publicity chairwoman.  Most importantly she has been a friend to many international students.

She has been more than a mentor.  Linda Sipprelle has been a role model for international students.  She is generous, supportive, respectful and humble.  Also, she has a positive energy that is not found in many people.

Linda Sipprelle deserves the Tribute to Women Award which was also given to nine other terrific women by the YWCA Princeton.  All the women are special and strong people who have broken barriers in order to improve other people’s lives.

As Linda said in her speech, a person should not only “to talk the talk but also to walk the walk”, which means that it is important to express what you believe and then to demonstrate through your actions that you mean what you say.  Linda taught this philosophy to her children and is demonstrating it to us as well.  Let’s talk the talk and walk the walk together.

Click here to watch a video made by YWCA Princeton about Linda Sipprelle.

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