In nascent after-school program, Wilson students help at Rieke with math and homework

by: CONNECTION PHOTO: DREW DAKESSIAN - Rieke students work on their math skills with a Wilson student through a new partnership.To a 9-year-old, high school can seem incredibly advanced, and high school students even more so. But all high school students were once in elementary school themselves, and now, in a new tutoring partnership between Rieke Elementary School and Wilson High School, they are coming back and sharing the wisdom of their years with their younger counterparts.

Rieke Principal Andrea Porter and Wilson Career Coordinator Erica Meyers had been thinking of starting a free tutoring program in math and homework support for some time.

“We have tried a tutoring program here a couple of different times. It’s sort of a bridge off of the T.A. program that we do at Wilson High School,” Porter explained. “We were looking for other ways to get the high school kids involved at Rieke. I can’t always remember who exactly thought of it; it was just percolating.”

The idea seemed to be a good one.

“Rieke doesn’t have a dedicated staff person to do math support work during the day, and we were looking for a way to give kids a little bit more of a boost in math,” Porter said. “It sort of naturally evolved out of that.”

Tutors were easy to find. As a requirement for membership in the National Honor Society, Wilson upperclassmen are required to perform 20 hours of community service a year. And, as it turns out, many of them are interested in teaching careers.

“Wilson students that are interested in working in education, this gives them more opportunity to have that access to that,” Meyers said.“I just mentioned, 'I know they’ve got a few students at Rieke that have struggled with getting homework done and that are below benchmark in math,' and I just asked the students if any of them would be interested in being tutors after school, and it was overwhelming the amount of students that raised their hands."

There has been no shortage of tutees, either.

“Each classroom teacher in grades third, fourth and fifth identified students who would benefit from some kind of math tutoring or homework support around math. And from there we notified the parents and parents got to opt in to that,” Porter explained.

“Some students are going home to homes where their parents can’t help them with their homework because they’ve got several siblings or their parents are working a couple jobs, and so this is great,” Meyers said.

Right now, the program is set up for math tutoring on Mondays and homework support on Wednesdays, from 3 p.m., when the Rieke school day ends, until 4:10 p.m., though Meyers said that might change to Wednesdays and Thursdays, because Wilson students are released earlier from school on those days.

Tutors are given kits featuring worksheets and materials for math manipulatives, crayons, scissors and other school supplies, and they teach Rieke student groups of three.

Rieke parents can rest assured that their children are in capable hands. Wilson tutors went through orientation training, and they are working alongside more seasoned professionals. Kindergarten parent Mark Seker is the owner of Tutor Doctor Portland, the Southwest Portland franchise of a national tutoring company.

“He saw a blast, our newsletter blast, saying we were going to offer this for upper grades, and he jumped on it and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got licensed teachers who work for us that don't’ start their tutoring till 5 o’clock and they would dive at getting into a school and working with more elementary school kids,’” Porter recalled. “So we have two Tutor Doctor volunteers who act as mentors for the high school tutors. ... They don’t necessarily run the small groups or the tutoring, but they do some side-by-side, they slide in and model how an activity could be done with the students while the high school tutor is watching, and then the high school tutor slips back in and takes over.”

“It’s a really great partnership for all of us,” Meyers said.

So far, the response has been very positive.

“The buy-in is there for the kids,” Porter said. “They want the support in math, they want the support in homework, and they’re happy to be there.”

“From my perspective, it really does take — this is so cliche — but it does take a village, really, to raise a child, and it really is great that we’re having our Wilson students and our community members that are all connecting to our elementary school students,” Meyers said. “It really does feel like a strong community for me.”

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