By Kara Patterson
RSVP Program Assistant
Recruiting and enrolling tutors for its United for Reading Success and Math Achievement Partnership programs is high on the Appleton Area School District’s back-to-school checklist for August.
“We are going full force,” said Julie Bargholtz, the district’s coordinator of community engagement. “Our volunteers are back in the schools.”
After an approximately two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bargholtz said, the volunteer tutoring programs relaunched this past February. She said there now is a need for tutors in all of the district’s participating schools.
Gerry Hofacker of Appleton started volunteering as a tutor through United for Reading Success at Edison Elementary School in 2013, the same year she became an AmeriCorps Seniors volunteer with the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).
“It is so much fun to see the kids when you first start with them and how they progress through the year,” said Hofacker, who said she is eager to resume tutoring this coming school year. “The teachers there work so well with us. I really was impressed with that.”
Volunteer Fox Cities, which sponsors RSVP, provides volunteers and support services to nonprofits to help them meet their missions in serving the community.
Those interested in tutoring through United for Reading Success and Math Achievement Partnership need a passion for students and helping them succeed. The district equips the volunteers from there.
“We provide all the training,” Bargholtz said. “We provide all the tools and resources.”
Teachers evaluate students at the start of the school year and identify those who will work with the volunteer tutors – in first grade for reading, and in grades two through four for math. Bargholtz said the participating students typically are those who may not quite hit the benchmark for reading or math skills.
The tutors meet with students for up to five sessions per week. With their support, students often progress.
“Quite a lot of times they exceed the benchmark and gain a lot more progress than where they were initially, and sometimes go far beyond where they need to be at the end of the school year,” Bargholtz said. “It’s that every-day ability to practice and create that bond. That bond really builds confidence too. Confidence is very motivating to the student.”
Volunteers have options in terms of days and times of the week they’ll tutor in reading (30-minute sessions) or math (20-minute sessions.) The district also aims to place them at the schools they choose.
The work in the tutoring sessions aligns with the classroom curriculum. Activities in reading include read-alouds (tutor-to-student and student-to-tutor), and special attention to high-frequency vocabulary words. Math tutoring reinforces basic concepts through the use of manipulatives, games, drawings and real-world examples.
Bargholtz said the tutors are caring adults the students can count on.
“This just provides that consistency with that mentorship and also increases their skill set with education,” Bargholtz said.
To volunteer, contact RSVP Program Assistant Kara Patterson at 920-832-9360 or firstname.lastname@example.org.