“She is a real pick-me-up on hard days,” Etha Meeks says, speaking of her WITS Classroom Reading Tutor, Lynne. It’s a busy Wednesday afternoon at Manierre Elementary in Old Town, and we are able to steal a few minutes in the teachers’ lounge to catch up on their partnership.
Classroom Reading Tutoring (CRT) is WITS’ oldest program, stemming from the first partnerships forged by founders Joanne Alter and Marion Stone. Currently, there are 36 active CRT volunteers supporting teachers in 17 schools across the city. Some CRTs have been volunteering with their teacher since WITS was founded in 1991, while others are experiencing their first school year in the program.
One such volunteer is Lynne McMahon, who joined Ms. Meeks’ second grade class this September. Visiting two afternoons per week, Lynne works one-on-one with students on sight word recognition, spelling, and vocabulary-building. Over the course of the year, Ms. Meeks and Lynne have developed a productive, positive dynamic together, collaborating intuitively to serve the wide range of academic needs in the classroom.
“How Ms. Meeks manages 32 children with such wildly different aptitudes and attitudes is something bordering on the miraculous,” Lynne says. “She draws their attention and affection and somehow acknowledges every one of them individually and praises them for their growth.”
Having a weekly volunteer allows for differentiated teaching methods to suit specific students, helps bridge gaps, and gives the teacher some much-needed relief during the school day.
“To have someone that is skilled and eager to help out, and who knows how to carry out what needs to be carried out, makes all the difference in the world for the kids,” says Ms. Meeks. A smile brightens her face as she adds, “She’s phenomenal.”
The appreciation is certainly mutual.
“These children positively glow when she tells them how proud they’ve made her,” Lynne says. “Each step forward is praised, each regression is sympathized with. Her words matter. It is my great privilege to volunteer in her classroom.”
By Elizabeth Kristoff, Program Manager