A classroom for grade-schoolers and their tutors Partners: A mentoring program helps college students with their teaching skills and elementary school students with their homework, organization skills and confidence.

March 08, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Ask 9-year-old Sharon Turner what she likes about her after-school tutor, and the William Winchester Elementary School fourth-grader will be glad to tell you.

"First of all, she's not strict, she's young, she's a woman, a girl, she dresses cool, she helps me with my homework, she never hollers at you, she's understanding, she's nice, she's kind, she's got good teeth ."

Sharon could go on and on about Heather Pinto, the Western Maryland College sophomore who comes to William Winchester every Thursday to help Sharon as part of the college's tutor/mentoring partnership with the Westminster elementary school.

And Heather has a good time, too.

"I just love helping," said the college student, who's been in the program for two years. "Every time I walk into the classroom she gives me a big smile and says, 'My mentor is here!' "

"She really enjoys working," Pinto said. "She loves to talk though; she can get off track."

When William Winchester teamed up with the college seven years ago, there were six pairs of students and mentors. Now, approximately 50 William Winchester students spend an hour after school each week with a Western Maryland College tutor.

Participants say the collaboration has been a success for everyone involved. The students love the attention and can sharpen their academic skills. The college tutors, many of whom are considering teaching careers, value the experience and the chance to get involved in an off-campus activity.

"It gives them successful role models of young people," said Assistant Principal Chris Sparr. "It's great to have [the college students] believe in children and see their strengths."

"The program gives back to the community," said Western Maryland College student Nicki Kassolis, president of Students Teaching America's Youth (STAY), which coordinates the tutoring initiative.

"You kind of get the feeling that maybe you've made some small difference in their lives by giving them the attention they need for an hour a week," said Kassolis.

Western Maryland College student Julie Legore arrives at William Winchester Thursdays at 3: 30 p.m. to tutor fourth-grader Kahlea Zepp.

A William Winchester graduate herself, Legore goes to Kahlea's classroom, asks about the homework assignment for the next day and waits patiently as Kahlea gathers her books and school supplies.

"Do you have your spelling words with you?" Legore asks. "Let me see them just to make sure."

Legore and Kahlea walk down to the school's media center, settle at a table by the window and begin working on her reading assignment.

Five other tutor-student pairs are also huddled over books.

Eleven-year-old Nikita Morrison and her tutor, Summer Lyles, review spelling words. Western Maryland College student John Sobanski helps Michael Morvell, 10, understand graphs in his math assignment.

After working through some punctuation and grammar questions, Sharon reads her summary of a Nancy Drew mystery to Pinto.

"Once there was a girl named Nancy Drew. She had a friend named Ellen ."

Students are identified for the STAY program by William Winchester teachers. Some need help with their schoolwork and organizational skills; others lack confidence and need extra encouragement.

Rose Phillips, an instructional assistant at William Winchester who supervises the tutoring program, said the tutors go out of their way to help their students.

"I have seen college students who have seen a need and have gone out and bought materials to get them organized," Phillips said.

This year the STAY tutors have made an effort to develop their relationships with their students outside the William Winchester classrooms. Last month, the tutors threw a "fiesta" dinner at the college for the students and their families. They've been on a field trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore and are going to a preseason Orioles game.

"We bring them up to the [Western Maryland College] campus and hope it will inspire them to go to college themselves," said Kassolis.

As the tutoring session winds down, Legore helps Kahlea study for a science test.

"Tell me what is a mixture," asks Legore.

"Anything that takes up space," Kahlea answers.

"A mixture? That's a mass," says Legore.

Still reviewing for the science test, Legore walks Kahlea to the school lobby to meet her mother, Kim Harvey.

"It's helped her a great deal," said Harvey of the tutoring. "She's shown a big improvement all around. She's more focused now."

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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