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Dial-A-Teacher wraps up another banner year

Dial-A-Teacher homework helpers Cara Metz

Ending the year as energized as when they began are the renowned Dial-A-Teacher homework helpers, most of whom return year after year for the camaraderie and joy of helping.

Anthony Harmon looks on while Judite Cataldi helps a student in need. Cara Metz

Anthony Harmon, the program director, looks on while Judite Cataldi helps a student in need.

Dial-A-Teacher enjoyed another record-breaking year in 2011-2012, fielding 84,643 calls by the time the homework helpline ended its last day on June 7.

The beloved institution, where eight languages are spoken and students can get individual homework help from one of 46 certified, licensed New York City public school teachers, just finished its 32nd year.

“Whatever the weather, our teachers are here, making sure students have a place to turn for homework help,” said Program Director Anthony Harmon.

Teachers are available from Monday to Thursday, 4 to 7 p.m., during the school year.

You may wonder how teachers have the energy, following what for most is a full day of work, to come in and do more work.

“I can’t answer that question!” said Project Coordinator Karen Butler-Brock, who then proceeded to do so.

“But reaching out to children and families and the appreciation that they express when they receive the help they need is very gratifying. There’s no better feeling than when you help a child,” she said.

While Dial-A-Teacher used to keep its records on paper and then add them to a database, it is now fully computerized, which makes it possible to strategize and pinpoint areas that are less well-served. “We do a tremendous amount of outreach,” said Butler-Brock.

With their stickers, bookmarks and fliers, Dial-A-Teacher staff attend PTA meetings and school fairs and go on class visits where they are invited to get the word out about their services.

Thanks to a recent program upgrade, teachers can now communicate with students online and even watch them work on an assignment.

Teachers can also download and view students’ worksheets and assignments instead of just listening to them describe them over the phone.

“That’s helpful because it adds a visual component to the homework help we can offer,” Butler-Brock said.

Dial-A-Teacher received its usual boost from TV and radio weatherman Irv “Mr. G” Gikofsky, a former public school teacher who sung the praises of the program daily on PIX 11 and WCBS-FM.

Want to introduce Dial-A-Teacher to your school next year? Just call 212-777-3380 to arrange a school visit or share the number with your students.

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