Paul Anderson is a big-picture guy, while his wife, Carol, is detail-oriented, but both are passionate about education and have spent nearly the last two decades supporting Horizons Elementary School in Appleton.
After teaching at Johnston Elementary School for 30 years, Paul retired in 2000 and began tutoring first-graders at Horizons in United for Reading Success (UFRS).
Carol began tutoring there too, in the reading program as a substitute. When she retired from M&I Trust, she began tutoring there regularly. She also organized the teachers’ book room, including shelving books and completing inventory and reorganizing the structure of the main library at the school.
The Andersons are among 31 members of the Retired & Senior Volunteer 55+ Program who serve in the Appleton Area School District’s math and reading programs. RSVP is sponsored by Volunteer Fox Cities.
Carol Bloemer, RSVP director, said many tutors serve for years in the role.
“They love the children,” she said. “One volunteer shared that his grandchildren live out of state. By volunteering, he misses them a little less.”
Observing the progress of students is very rewarding for the Andersons.
“Picture the old cartoon, the guy with a lightbulb above his head, the old-fashioned bulb with a chain,” Paul said. “Some time in January, somebody reaches up and pulls that chain and you can see a big difference.”
Paul also is on the advisory board for UFRS and is site coordinator at Horizons. He tells new volunteer tutors that they probably won’t see improvement week to week.
“But you should see improvement month to month, which is neat with first-graders because with fifth- and sixth-graders, you don’t see that,” he said.
“They often just take off in January.”
“Teachers often say they will improve one reading level per month,” she said.
Bloemer, who has been a member of the advisory councils of the math and reading programs for many years, said she is amazed at the research used to adopt the most up to date methods.
“There is a high level of communication and then education of the tutors when these changes occur,” she said. “The success of this program is due to the commitment of the tutors and the support of the school administration. Years ago, the site coordinator position was implemented at each school. This led to increased efficiency and increased volunteer satisfaction. I never hesitate to encourage new RSVP volunteers to try tutoring at AASD.”
Paul said the students enrolled in the program come every day for the 30-minute session and seem to enjoy it.
“They see a smiling adult who gives them a lot of praise,” he said, “reads them a story, plays some games – what’s not to like?”
Carol said the UFRS program is particularly important for students with non-English-speaking parents.
“There have been times where a teacher just wanted me to read to a student so they could hear the fluency.”
Carol also notes that the staff, teachers and paraprofessionals at Horizons make volunteers feel welcomed.
“If I don’t get at least two thank-yous a day, she said, “it’s unusual.”
For more information on how to become a tutor in Appleton, Kimberly or Combined Locks, contact Carol or Jan at Volunteer Fox Cities, 920-832-9360 or firstname.lastname@example.org.