For Megan Aman, a fifth-grade teacher at Walton Charter School in Pontiac, meeting her students in person for the first time in nearly two years presented unique challenges.
“My kids had all been learning virtually since March of 2020,” Aman said. “I soon discovered that at least half of my 30 students were way behind in math and reading. They hadn’t finished third grade in person, and were virtual for all of the fourth grade. They hadn’t learned or retained as much as they would have in person. There’s a lot to catch up on.”
She considered coming in early, staying after school, and trying to do whatever it takes to get her kids up to grade level. But the task of working with kids in small groups with limited time in the school day caused her to think outside the box.
With permission from her principal, Aman, a 2003 Bishop Foley graduate, remembered her high school days of service hours, and decided to reach out to De La Salle for some tutoring helpers. She was familiar with DLS from high school dances, as well as having friends who are DLS alumni.
She connected with Mr. Ben Westphal, '16, who is handling service for the DLS Campus Ministry Department. He quickly organized tutors to “meet” with the fifth-graders virtually after school using the Google Meet platform. Aman and Westphal are using the “Slack” app to keep track of who is where and when.
The DLS students tutor one-on-one with whatever student Aman has slotted for them. She provides a bit of background on the students’ needs: this one needs a little help solving the problem, this one needs a demonstration of the steps. Aman is using an online math program that provides instant feedback.
“Some kids get too many in a row wrong, and they just give up, “ Aman said. “The tutor is able to walk them through the problem so that they can see the steps to follow.”
The student and tutor are on headphones and talking to each other, as well as using either a whiteboard, which the student holds up to the screen for the tutor to see their work, or a “jam board” where the tutor writes out the problem so the student can see the step by step process.
The time slots run from 2-2:30 p.m., 2:30-3 p.m., and 3:30-4 p.m. Aman says the kids are loving it, and even students with better skills are clamoring to be involved with the tutoring process.
The fifth-graders have already shown progress, Aman says. Once the tutoring hour starts, she is freed up to work with small groups in her classroom.
“I am so grateful,” Aman said. This has been an amazing experience. This is life-changing for my students as they feel people are believing in them. They started off nervously, but their confidence and academic skills are growing.”
Junior Frankie Polonis says he has enjoyed the tutoring experience.
“All I have to do is hop on a Google Meet and help a student with subjects they need help in,” Polonis said. “It is an easy thing to do, and the right thing to do.”
Polonis noted that tutoring via computer was pretty easy. “I thought it would be difficult since it wouldn’t be in-person, but sometimes it can help just to talk to them and explain what to do. The jam board application has helped.”
Junior Adam Pryszczewski has also enjoyed the tutoring experience. “The students are excited to learn and appreciate the time we devote to helping them master their math skills. All the kids need is a little push to get them to where they need to be.”
Westphal said, “The virtual tutoring program is an excellent opportunity for our Pilots to give back to younger students in a safe and efficient manner. With COVID protocols, in-person tutoring is impossible, but online one-on-one is working well. It’s been a great way for students to earn service hours for school and for other requirements. We look forward to building up the program this semester and beyond.”
Students interested in the tutoring program should contact Mr. Westphal.