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Hundreds of schoolchildren from New York to Arizona are benefiting from an online tutoring partnership that has grown quickly to encompass teacher-education students from five colleges. It’s a win-win Safer-at-Home solution started by Bola Delano-Oriaran (Education) that helps families looking for assistance as they educate their children in the time of COVID-19 and offers virtual teaching time to student teachers looking for classroom experience. (Our photo posed by actors for reasons of confidentiality.)

K-12 Pupils Across the United States Sign Up for Free Online Tutoring Initiative Launched From St. Norbert College

Hundreds of K-12 students from Arizona to New York are taking advantage of e-tutoring services offered by education students through a collaboration of private and public universities in Wisconsin.

Three hundred-plus students at eight Wisconsin institutions, led by St. Norbert College, began providing free grade-appropriate online instruction last week. More than 500 students from 20 states have so far been placed, with a waiting list in place. The initiative, started by Bola Delano-Oriaran (Education), now includes SNC, Lawrence University, University of North Georgia, UW-Milwaukee, UW Oshkosh, UW-Green Bay, UW-Stevens Point and Ripon College. Plans are underway to expand the effort to other colleges and universities in the Midwest.

“This e-tutoring program connects college students and faculty with their communities and empowers all involved to intentionally engage while applying academic coursework to address community issues,” Delano-Oriaran says. “In tutoring, our teacher candidates are deepening their knowledge as they apply concepts learned from their teacher-education college courses, while K-12 students also are continuing with their learning in the midst of COVID-19.”

Chloe Steffel ’21 says her experiences so far have been wonderful: “I am able to get to know my students, their ability levels in the requested content areas, prepare lessons that help further that knowledge – not only using what I have learned in classes in working with them, but also using what I learn about them and their interests to tailor their learning to ways that make sense for them.”

A win-win approach 
Eric Brunsell, associate dean of UWO’s College of Education & Human Services, says it is important for universities to give back and help children while in-person classes have been suspended across the United States.

“Our job is to prepare our students to be successful in the classroom. This tutoring experience is an innovative approach to give our students strong experiences when traditional approaches are unavailable,” says Brunsell.

Although there isn’t a state-mandated number of clinical hours a teacher needs prior to graduation, UWO assistant professor Stephanie Bernander says these hours provide important classroom experience to train teachers in lesson design and in monitoring student learning.

“By having our teacher candidates involved in tutoring we can still work with them by providing feedback on their lesson design and instructional techniques,” Bernander says. “It will be a unique experience for them to assess student learning and build relationships with these students.”

Service-learning in a time of crisis
SNC’s Christina Dull ’21 describes her experiences with her pupils thus far: “The online tutoring instruction is going well for me. I have two tutees that I meet with once a week from about a half an hour to 40 minutes. Ahead of time, I create lesson plans that revolve around what the students would be learning in school. … I am glad I am able to have this opportunity since I am unable to do onsite service learning this semester.”

Bree Lamers, a senior from UW Oshkosh, anticipates significant personal growth from this experience.

“This project will allow me to continue to enhance my teaching skills as well as to make sure students are getting the necessary help that they need with their schoolwork at home,” Lamers says. “Adapting to a situation as large as a pandemic isn’t easy. All of the tutors, including myself, will be able to discover new ways to teach students virtually.”

Lamers also looks forward to building a connection with her students: “Each tutor will continue to work with the same K-12 students throughout the rest of the semester, allowing us to build rapport – something that is key in education.”

As Delano-Oriaran watches the e-tutoring program grow day by day, she is thankful to have the opportunity to make an impact.

“Doing this work in the midst of a pandemic has allowed me to stay grounded and at peace while ‘called’ to serve my students, my college, my community and our nation one day at a time,” she says.

April 21, 2020