’Berg after-school tutors fill the gap for local elementary children

Last spring, the School of Education received funding from the Ohio Department of Education’s Statewide Mathematics and Literacy tutoring grant program. Heidelberg used the grant to create the Genius Afterschool Program.

A total of 12 education majors just completed the first semester of reading and math tutoring for 22 kindergarten-fifth graders from Tiffin City Schools, Bridges Academy and Calvert Catholic Schools.

The tutoring experience – while it was an eye-opener at times – has proven to be great preparation for the teachers-to-be. The program also provided a much-needed boost to the children who need intensive intervention to help close a learning gap brought on by COVID or other life circumstances.

During the fall semester, the sights and sounds of the energetic children entering the Education Center in a single file line from their buses and being greeted by their tutors were nothing short of heartwarming. Backpacks lined the wall and snack time set the stage for the day’s instruction. As participants in the program, they receive group tutoring followed by individualized instruction.

“It’s been really nice to have the elementary kids in the education building,” says Dr. Stacey Pistorova, associate professor of elementary education and the grant’s author.

Stacey explained that the ’Berg tutors are given data on the children’s reading and math test scores and then get to work setting appropriate goals for each child. Each tutor works directly with two children. 

“Our students have been tremendous in their preparation,” she said. “It’s been an eye-opener and not without some struggles, but they have really excelled.” 

The future teachers make it fun for the children. “We don’t want it to feel like another two hours of school, and we have gotten very creative to make that happen,” Stacey said. That’s a great thing because all of the children will return next semester as the Genius Afterschool Program continues.

The tutors’ perspective

Perhaps the best part of serving as tutors is getting to experience that “lightbulb moment,” says Makenzie Damsa, a junior education major from Barberton, Ohio.

The ’Berg students work to create individualized lesson plans for each child. “Each of them gets to bring in their own interests while learning so it’s really cool to see how excited they get to be here,” Makenzie says, adding that she’s learned to plan extra activities. “This program is meant to be fun and rewarding, so sometimes you have to over-plan and have backup activities for when they become not so interested.”

Senior Adrienne Lucius of Bellevue, Ohio, says she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get involved in the program. So far, it’s going well. “The students come in with smiles on their faces and are so excited about tutoring for the day,” she says. “We work hard each day to provide a fun, engaging learning experience for them.”

It can be a challenge, she adds, to plan activities that are both fun and constructive – much like an actual classroom.

“I have planned activities that help students understand and learn the concepts that they are struggling with. However, there are times when my students become frustrated with the topic and I have to find a way to make it more fun and less stressful for them,” she says. 

Adrienne agrees that the hard work and planning is all worthwhile when she sees the students’ faces light up when they come through the door. “It’s touching to see them so excited to see their tutors as well as hear the progress they are making in school.

“Knowing that I am making an impact on the students both academically and personally is a huge reward.”

Additionally, the future teachers are gaining valuable experience in lesson planning, evaluating student interests and needs, classroom management and more, in preparation for their own classrooms one day.

“It’s a great program to really dive into the education major and be a little more independent,” Makenzie says.

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