Month: August 2016

Aug 26

Back to School: A Tutor’s Guide

This webinar is one of our greatest hits. While it originally took place in 2016, the ideas and practices discussed remain tried and true.

Join School on Wheels for important tips to prepare you for a new year of tutoring. Former staff discusses best practices for easing your student into the school year. Topics include setting goals, getting organized, and communicating with teachers and parents. We share ideas for grades K-12 and answer tutoring questions.

View/Download Workshop Slides (PDF)

Aug 9

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 8/9/2016

Question: I just started working with a teenager in 10th grade and he is reluctant to do reading exercises. I get the feeling he is very far behind in reading level and is embarrassed about it. What can I do to make him more comfortable and to find reading material that can help improve his skills?”

I just started working with a teenager entering the 9th grade. She lives in a group home. I was asked to help her because they thought she might fail her English class. She was reluctant to work with me.

I discovered from her Student Questionnaire that she was dyslexic, but she loved to read teen mythology books. So, we started a book club for the summer. We’re both reading Demon King and for the last 3 weeks we’ve been discussing the book. Her reading comprehension is good, but I think she has trouble when she needs to read a word out of context. Best of all, she is starting to trust me.

Last week we discussed getting ready to go back to school and the areas she thought we should work on. She told me she wanted to work on math and science. I suggested we also work on English. I asked her if she’d be willing to take a couple of assessments that would help identify specific subjects we needed to focus. She agreed.

This week I’m giving her two assessments. One of the assessments is a list of words that she will read to me. I’m hoping this will give me a better idea if she has Dyslexia, or there is another problem we need to address.

So, in short, I would suggest finding something to read with your student that he enjoys, based on his personal interests, but that is at an easy reading level. Once he understands you aren’t there to judge him, he might be more comfortable doing an assessment to pinpoint his reading level.

Here is an example of a reading assessment you can do with your student. I hope this information helps you.

About the Tutor: Cathie Alter has been a School on Wheels tutor for one year.  She is a former law firm Administrator and CPA.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

Aug 4

August 2016 Newsletter

We started August off with our Refer a Friend Challenge, encouraging our volunteers and supporters to invite friends, family, and others to tutor with School on Wheels! It will run the entire month. We also began the month with another move for our staff members who were stationed in our Skid Row Learning Center. We were very honored to feature Zarin and Talal, our donors of the month, who were married in June. The couple asked their guests to donate to our organization in lieu of wedding gifts. To prepare our tutors for Back to School season, we are hosting an online webinar which will provide them with a guide on how to prepare their student for the year. In this newsletter, we also featured a new digital learning tool we’ve adapted, Khan Academy, for our students to use with their tutors. It is packed with a wide range of topics that is sure to fit any student’s needs.

Aug 2

Students of the Month – August 2016

Skid Row Learning Center

Melodie, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Melodie, 10th Grade. Having students return to the Skid Row Learning Center(SRLC) is a bittersweet, mixed bag since we always hope that students that leave us find permanent housing and ensuing stability and success. Upon a student’s return, we never know whether to expect a downtrodden student or a resilient one. July’s Student of the Month, Melodie, is definitely the latter. Three and a half years away from the academic assistance and positive role models at the SRLC left Melodie far behind in her studies. However, she came back prepared to take advantage of everything School On Wheels has to offer.

Melodie has been walking into the SRLC with a big smile on her face ready to tackle the day’s academic assignments and eager to use all the resources at her disposal. For example, Melodie quickly learned to divide during one online tutoring session, which will help her tremendously in high school and life beyond. One final example of Melodie’s resilience and resourcefulness is her stellar art project where she had to illustrate a food chain in 3 dimensions, which she did with characteristic panache (as shown above and to the left).

Brian Lopez, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena

Highland Park boys group home, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Highland Park boys group home. Here is what Cameron writes: I started off feeling very nervous about taking on the responsibility of being a tutor and meeting new kids. However, I decided to take tutoring as a challenge to better the lives of others and to conquer my own nervousness, One of the really great moments we had together was playing basketball in their backyard. I saw the kids not as students but as normal teenagers. Carlos, was one student I focused on particularly. Overall, I saw a massive improvement in Carlos’s ability to recognize certain words; he learned to break down words he didn’t know and figure them out unassisted. Finally, I feel that, overall, my experience as a tutor made me a better person and helped others.

Alex writes:
I started tutoring last fall. Up until then, I’d been shy and slow to get into conversations much less tutor kids in a group home. As I felt more comfortable, I became more invested in the boys and their futures. Each day tutoring them was another chance to provide an opportunity for success, to give these kids a shot at meeting their own goals.

Cameron Riefe, Alex Riefe, Tutors

Region 6 – Inland Empire

Cameron, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Cameron, 7th Grade. Having a student like Cameron is every tutor’s dream. When we first met, he was reading below his grade level. As we progressed through each lesson, he surprised me with his unique insight on the way the world works and his maturity. Conversation with him is never dull. Although he occasionally has trouble focusing, Cameron is a quick and curious learner. They say reading is food for the soul, but I find that Cameron experiences the world differently. His sagacity, intelligence, and interests are rooted in interaction and hands-on experience. Often we find time to discuss and dismantle the intricacies of sports, history, and the world around us.

Angela Zhang, Tutor

Region 8 – Ventura County

Cari, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Cari, 5th Grade. I am so pleased with my student Cari. She is a bright little girl with strength of will and a challenge for many. It is wonderful that she and her Mom really count on my presence each week. They both show their appreciation which makes my work so rewarding. I hope to prepare her for what she will encounter in 5th grade so that she will shine.

Cari enjoys reading and writing, and from time to time, she enjoys volunteering at a local pet store. When she grows up, Cari would like to save animals with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Eileen Speer, Tutor

Region 10 – South Orange County

Justice, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Justice, 3rd Grade. Justice is an outgoing, intelligent, and highly perceptive student. He has worked hard and is making nice progress in the short time we’ve worked together. In our tutoring sessions, he actively participates, shares his opinions, and explains his thought process when asked. What strikes us most about Justice is how he is very comfortable expanding upon almost ANY topic of discussion. He likes to share examples and animated demonstrations on a wide range of subjects, which makes our time together much more interesting and fun. Justice brings plenty of energy to our sessions, and he’s not shy about liking a little reward for a job well-done. Though only in 3rd grade, Justice will likely achieve whatever he sets his mind to!

Brandon Mann, Tutor

Region 12 – North Orange County

Heaven, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Heaven. I am very glad to have Heaven as one of my students. She comes into tutoring sessions with a smile and a desire to learn. With every session, Heaven continues to strengthen her grasp of all academic concepts. It was great to see her so excited to learn about Newton’s second law of motion and conduct a science experiment using a K’Nex roller coaster set. It has been such a pleasure and privilege to have been given the opportunity to observe Heaven’s academic growth.

Matthew Young, Tutor

Online Tutoring

Micah, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Micah, 9th Grade. It has been a pleasure to serve as Micah’s tutor and to be part of his support system. Since our first online tutoring session in April, Micah has blossomed in his understanding of many key foundational concepts in mathematics, such as counting, addition, subtraction, and now in multiplication. We are yet to tackle division! One of my key success stories tutoring Micah is his increased willingness to ask questions and to question what I teach him. Students like Micah, despite their difficult home life benefit immensely from consistent academic support and mentorship.

Ian Chan, Online Tutor

Aug 2

Tutors of the Month – August 2016

Region 2 – South LA

– Jaston. Jaston made a video describing his tutoring experience with School on Wheels. In the video, Jaston talks about helping Nicholas work on his resume and interviewing skills.

Skid Row Learning Center

Jiayi Grace Qin, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Jiayi “Grace” Qin. During the school year, USC sends us students through their Joint Educational Program to serve as tutors. This year, we were lucky that Ms. Grace was assigned to our group! After months of tutoring kindergarten students, Grace extended her role and became a summer intern. She comes in every day to help prep the room and snacks; then she spends the afternoon working with the kindergarten kids. Grace joins us all the way from China and we are honored that she joined our little corner of the world. When asked about her stay, Grace said, “Being a tutor here at School on Wheels helps me to get practice, self-cultivation, and actual experience. I am so glad that I can help children with their education.” We are glad too, Grace!

Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena

Diana Lee, Cameron Riefe, Alex Riefe, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Diana Lee, Cameron Riefe, Alex Riefe. This month we highlight 3 tutors. Diana and her twin boys Cameron and Alex. They have provided so much support to the boys at the Aguila house. They are definitely supportive tutors, who not only help the boys academically but connect with the students at the group home but finding different ways to engage, teach, and mentor the students.

Diana writes:
Tutoring teenage boys who are overcoming addiction at Aguila House is a rewarding experience. My sons Cameron and Alex and I visit weekly to help the boys with reading, writing, and math. If they don’t have homework, we help them write journals or cover letters for dream jobs. When they have specific requests, such as preparing for the standardized test to enter the military, we show them strategies to improve their knowledge and skills. One of the boys was interested in philosophy; so we read library books about philosophy and engaged in lively discussions.

As tutors, we also learn from our students; their life experiences and perspectives are sometimes vastly different from our own. Nino, for example, is extremely frustrated with the gentrification that is making his neighborhood too expensive to live in.

Lancella Hunter, Regional Coordinator

Region 6 – Inland Empire

Angela Zhang, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Angela Zhang. Angela has been a wonderful and dedicated volunteer since February 2015. Even though she is a high school student, she demonstrates outstanding qualities that not only make her a great role model but a magnificent tutor. Angela is responsible, consistent with her session, committed to School on Wheels and always logs her hours. She is currently tutoring two students at two different locations. Angela, thank you for all your hard work and dedication!

This is what Angela had to say about her experience as a School on Wheels volunteer:

When I first joined School on Wheels, I was exploring a future career path in education. I was a teen with no car, busy parents and surrounded by a wealthy suburban community. However, within weeks of having my first session with Cameron, my love of teaching was affirmed. Volunteering offers so much invaluable insight into the human condition that only occurs when you join two people from vastly different backgrounds and experiences. Because of School on Wheels and the students I tutor, I am a stronger, more open minded person.

Marisol Farfan, Regional Coordinator

Region 8 – Ventura County

Eileen Speer, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Eileen Speer. Eileen has dedicated her time to School on Wheels since early in 2016 and has worked with her student continuously since then. In her own words:

While searching for an opportunity to give back, I came across School on Wheels’ effort in Ventura County. I was looking for volunteer programs that would possibly benefit from my career experience. Last year having done homework with my two grandchildren, I came to enjoy creating opportunities for learning new things and especially new words. After looking into several volunteer opportunities I discovered that School on Wheels was by far the most organized and professional organization I had encountered.

Teresa Vazquez, Regional Coordinator

Region 10 – South Orange County

Brandon and Bruce Mann, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Brandon and Bruce Mann. Bruce and Brandon are a father-son dynamic duo. They have been tutoring together since January of this year. They have shown extreme dedication to their students over the past 6 months and have really gone above and beyond to meet their students’ unique needs. Brandon prepares diligently for each and every session, and they are both kind, compassionate and patient with each student. Their commitment to their students and to School on Wheels is extra-ordinary. We are so lucky to have them on our team!

I was an active volunteer in the community before School on Wheels, but felt that my actions were not going to have a strong impact on anyone’s life. When I found out about School on Wheels online program, I knew this was the program I was looking for. The students I have worked with, have taught me the struggles that innocent kids go through every day and that each student has unique strengths. Each requires a different approach, and they challenge me to find that specific way to connect with them. I love the excitement they have to strengthen their knowledge of a subject and their reactions to accomplishing something they previously believed impossible to do. It brings a smile to my face to see their boost in self confidence because they know they faced an obstacle and overcame it.

Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator

Region 12 – North Orange County

Chris Cole, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Chris Cole. Chris is an amazing tutor. Since the first time I met him, he has been extremely engaged, dedicated and willing to do more. His passion for helping and reaching children is incredible.

In his own words:

After just a few sessions with my first student, I was able to see how much improvement could be had with one-on-one tutoring. After asking another student if she understood the teacher at school and being quietly told, “No, we move around a lot,” I was reminded of how hard these children have it and how much help they need. It’s a shame that so many kids are falling behind due to circumstances completely out of their control. It’s good to see School on Wheels helping to alleviate some of the difficulty these students have.

Trish Arias, Regional Coordinator

Online Tutoring

Jin Tan, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Jin Tan. Jin joined us in 2014 as an in-person tutor at one of our partner shelters in Compton. Since moving to New York City, Jin has continued to tutor with us online. Jin brings consistency, positivity, grit, and interactivity to his sessions. Often, you will find Jin and his student working for 90-120 minutes at a time! We are fortunate to have Jin on our team. His students are better off because of him.

In his own words:

School on Wheels is one of the few organizations that permits you to make a direct impact on children’s lives. Although tutoring over a computer does bring its challenges, the platform School on Wheels has chosen is incredibly powerful and accommodating. When I first met my student Briana, she was discouraged and unmotivated about school. Initially unresponsive to my efforts, she slowly opened up as we played a few games and drew together over the shared white space on the tutoring platform. She was soon eager to learn. Now she sometimes refuses breaks in favor of continuing the lesson!

Ian Chan, Digital Learning Coordinator

Aug 1

Tutor Anniversaries August 2016

We would like to give a huge shout out to all of these amazing tutors who have volunteered with us for a year or more! 
We couldn’t impact the lives of thousands of children without you.

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” – Oscar Wilde

Fourteen Years
Dwight Liu

Four Years
Tony Estrada

Three Years
Langston Black
Tomer Gurantz
Breanne Jelsma
Sarah Robertson
Gillian Smith

Two Years
Katie Chilton
William Devine
Nader Farahat
Gabriela Gonzalez
Denice Gonzalez-Kim
Don Luke
Elizabeth Reznak

One Year
Geraldine Abilo
Ana Aceves
Ji Young Baek
Monica Carrillo
Andy Chiang
Eleonora Cocco
Steven Cox
Natalie Ferbezar
Marina Filippelli
Victoria Gipti
Anamika Gore
Tanya Hahni
Denise Huang
Nina Johnson
Navjot Kang
Alexandra Kocharians
Susan Lawi
Adilene Lorenzo
Morgan McCormick
Amanda Miller
Cristie Norman
Zachary Pennington
Jennifer Putman
Lizette Rodriguez
Isha Sharma
Lisa Shen
Yuri Song
Shweta Stowitts
Lauren Tess
Leonard Versoza
Audrey Waight
Vera Wang
Jose Zaragoza