Super heroes come in many different shapes, sizes and colors and one area teacher defines them as her volunteer reading tutors.
Mary Wydeven, who teaches first grade at Sunrise Elementary in the Kimberly Area School District, has been working with volunteers with the RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) 55+ Volunteer Program for 15 years. RSVP is sponsored by the Volunteer Center of East Central WI. Tutoring is part of Project Young Minds, an RSVP program designed to enrich the lives of youth by using the time and talents of adult volunteers. That means every Monday volunteers arrive at the school library to tutor her students in reading.
“It means that every child gets to be treated specially,” Mrs. Wydeven said. “They get to read books that they love. They get to talk about their books. They get to be an independent problem-solver with every book they read. It’s a beautiful partnership.”
Among the RSVP volunteers is Mary McClure. The Kimberly resident has been tutoring for 17 years, beginning at Westside Elementary.
“I was a teacher and I miss children,” she said. “I miss working with children.”
She tutors three students for 30 minutes each, beginning at 8:30 a.m. On a recent Monday, she was helping first-grader Jeremiah Moua sound out words in the book, “The Best Hat.” Since it was a new book for Jeremiah, Mrs. McClure paged through it first so they could look at the pictures to get an idea of what the story was about. She also pointed out the more difficult words so he could get familiar with them.
After students finish reading their book, Mrs. McClure asks them to tell her what the story was about to make sure they retained what they read.
If they have time, they practice a word list called Word Wave comprised of words the students should know. The words are printed on a sheet of paper, forming a wave design. After the students read each word, Mrs. McClure asks them to spell 10 of them.
Another RSVP volunteer, Dorothy Dietzen of Kaukauna, has been tutoring at Sunrise for 14 years. She also works on Mondays with three students. One of her students, Delani Stumpf, said she likes reading with Mrs. Dietzen. “I get to work with her every Monday,” she said. “It’s fun.”
Mrs. Dietzen, who has been a volunteer in the community for 50 years, enjoys tutoring. “I just love it,” she said. “Someone talked at a meeting about tutoring, so I tried it and I’ve never quit!”
For Mrs. McClure, the greatest reward of working with the students is seeing the progress. “Each week they seem a little better,” she said. “One student could hardly read when I started and now she can read a lot.”
According to Mrs. Wydeven, the tutors are making a difference in the classroom. “They make each child feel like a super star,” she said. “Both get so much from each other. When my kids come back in the classroom, each child comes in feeling like a super star in their own way.”
Mrs. Wydeven said her master’s thesis on the benefits of tutoring found a correlation between working one-on-one with kids. “The kids who worked one-on-one were growing as independent problem-solvers and the kids were finding a love for reading,” she said. “They were discussing their stories and just enjoying them together.”
Although other RSVP volunteers tutor for various teachers at Sunrise Tuesday through Thursday, Mrs. Wydeven said the school could use more tutors. For more information on becoming a tutor, call the Volunteer Center at 920-832-9630 or e-mail [email protected].