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Retiree tutors volunteer at Community Learning Schools

New York Teacher

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Miller Photography

Retiree Marcella Montoute works with a 6th-grader at the Community Health Academy of the Heights on reading and writing skills as part of the new UFT retiree tutoring program.

Marcella Montoute, retired since 2011, said she’s delighted to be helping 6th-graders at the Community Health Academy of the Heights, Manhattan, with writing and comprehension skills and supplying them with books on subjects she has discovered interest them.

“When I see them and they see me, our eyes light up,” she said.

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Community Health Academy teacher Nancy Dooley (right) discusses the specific needs of her students whom Montoute will be tutoring.

Montoute is among the UFT retirees who are volunteering in a new tutoring program, Help in Understanding Basics, designed to strengthen the basic literacy and math skills of struggling students in two of the UFT’s Community Learning Schools.

“I value our retirees’ activism and their continued commitment to our public school students,” said UFT Vice President Karen Alford, who leads the Community Learning Schools initiative. “Using their pedagogical expertise, they have designed the program, recruited tutors and begun the work in our schools.”

The idea began germinating when staff from several Community Learning Schools expressed the need for tutors at a monthly Retired Teachers Chapter meeting. Retiree Anne Rosen took on the challenge and soon a committee was at work creating a program with structure, goals, materials and commitment. It launched earlier this year.

“We want this program to be something valuable, so our pilot program is small but with the capacity and hope that it will grow,” Rosen said.

The committee has created several tools to assess the program, including a tutor log of skills worked on and materials used, and established regular opportunities for teachers and tutors to debrief.

Retiree Paul Schickler said he found it very helpful when the teacher of the two 1st-graders at PS 335 in Crown Heights he tutors pointed out specific areas where the students need extra help. And he is delighted with the generous resources for the tutors, including Dolch Word Lists and flash cards. He did add his own touch — stickers to reward hard work.

Nancy Dooley, who teaches 6th grade at Community Health Academy, said the program is already showing results.

“Our students look forward to their time with tutors,” she said. “They are showing gains in all areas of reading and writing and more confidence in participating in class due to feeling more comfortable about their skills level.”

Related Topics: United Community Schools