I am part of a program sponsored by AmeriCorps serving the Mesa School District in Arizona that I learned about through my local encore organization, Experience Matters. The program enlists adult mentors to work in stipended positions in 3rd through 6th grade classrooms providing one-on-one support for low-income students who are struggling academically.
I tutor my students in reading, math and writing, and my two days in the schools each week are what “make my day!” The students really appreciate the help and they also make improvements in their grades. They like working in small groups and having extra practice to read and work math problems. Sometimes, they want to tell you about their dreams and hopes, and what they want to do when they grow up.
I’ve done this for three years now, and the teacher at one school always has the students write a thank you. It is when I read their comments that I know that I am doing something that is making a difference. They say things like “Thank you for helping me to correct my work.” Or “You helped me to learn to do division problems.”
Before starting my encore, I was a retired educator living in Pennsylvania. I spent 19 years in the public school system where I worked as a middle school teacher and school building principal. When I moved to Arizona four years ago, it was for the purpose of caring for my mother and my sister who has a disability. At one point my brother also needed care. The three of them were my focus.
After a year or so, their health situations stabilized enough that I had some extra time. I thought about volunteering in a neighborhood school because it was something I could do, and I always got a lot of joy from working with children.
It’s been three years now. I am making plans for year four.