Sep 15

Ask A Tutor Tuesday! – 9/15/2015

Question: I’ve been tutoring since July, and my student recently went back to school. The last two weeks, I’ve been working on homework with her during our sessions. She has a lot, and I’m wondering how I’m supposed to do other activities in addition. How do I find the right balance? She really insists on doing her homework but some of it seems too advanced. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

—A tutor from Region 2

Hi, tutor from Region 2!

The first couple of weeks of school should include homework that’s mostly review for the student. If she is having trouble completing it on her own, you might think about contacting her teacher. Make sure you get in touch with your regional coordinator to verify that your student’s parent/guardian has signed the form that gives you permission first.

As a classroom teacher myself, I think of homework as a way for students to independently practice what they learned in class, with little or no help. Since she’s having trouble completing it, I would request that her homework be modified to contain fewer problems so that you’ll have time to work on other areas of weakness. Make sure you give her a quick assessment, which you can find here, to find where her gaps may be, or ask her teacher what skills you can work on in addition to homework. As tutors, we are an asset to classroom teachers. Don’t be afraid to reach out and work with teachers to make a plan best for your student.


About the tutor: Jackie Romo has been a School in Wheels tutor for nearly 9 years. Aside from tutoring, she teaches first grade in Rowland Heights and recently earned a Master of Science in reading. She is happy to help in any way she can to make your tutoring sessions successful!

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

Sep 14

Refer a Friend to School on Wheels and Win!

Do you love tutoring with School on Wheels? Do you want to share that experience with a friend and help us reach even more homeless students in Southern California?

Our fall Refer a Friend Challenge begins today, September 14th, and will run through October 16th. During this time, we ask all current and former School on Wheels volunteers to refer friends, colleagues, family members, or anyone else who might be interested in tutoring with us. Make sure your friends select “Friend/Word of Mouth” from the “How did you hear about SOW” drop down menu on the application and include your name in the “Other” field.

The tutor who refers the most friends will receive an area gift certificate, and all other participants will be entered to win prizes in a raffle!

Here is a link to our recruitment flyer; maybe you have a local coffee shop, a bulletin board at work or a library where you could post it. Take a picture of the flyer and share it with your followers on Instagram or Twitter. Post a link to the School on Wheels application on your Facebook!

Thank you for continuing to share your time and talent with students in need.

Sep 8

September 2015 Newsletter

Sometimes I get very angry, sometimes sad, sometimes despairing as I think of all the homeless children we see every day. One in every 30 children in the U.S. experiences homelessness every year – that’s one student in every classroom in America. Why is this not a national crisis discussed by every political, religious, education and community leader in this country? Why does the media not talk about 2.5 million homeless kids? Is it too overwhelming to consider? Too hard to talk about? Too shameful to acknowledge?

I don’t have to tell any of you, our loyal and generous volunteers, donors and supporters, about the heart-breaking issue of homeless children. You are there for them every day, giving them the tools they need to succeed in school, the consistency of a mentor and positive role model, the hope we all need to survive. That’s a lot. Now I am asking you to take one more step: shout out loud for homeless kids. Make your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, political representatives, baristas, Uber drivers, understand the magnitude of this problem. Talk about how education is a critical link in breaking this terrible cycle of homelessness. Tell them about our students and how challenging their lives are. They have no power and no voice, but you do.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you do for our students. You are making an enormous difference in their lives.

With deep appreciation,

Catherine signature
Catherine Meek
Executive Director

Click here to see more from our September Newsletter

Sep 8

Ask A Tutor Tuesday! – 9/8/2015

Question: I had my first student for over a year, but after that, I’ve had a different student every 2 months. It’s been really hard to create a bond like I did with my first student. Do you have any suggestions?

Hi there,

When I began as a Volunteer at School on Wheels, I first started at an emergency shelter, where I was lucky if I worked with one student for a month. So, I understand your confusion and possible frustration with the situation. I got too attached to my first student and thought about all these ideas for teaching them. I’d become so invested, yet my student only stayed at the shelter for so long before eventually moving far away. After this, I realized I had to change my mindset and make goals that were short-term for the student.

As I worked with my student on homework and other activities, I began to ask myself each week: What do I want my student to learn today? Whatever it was, I tried to just make that day enjoyable and a good learning experience for them. I always socialized a bit too. Open yourself up to your student, ask how his/her day was, and tell your student one small interesting thing that happened with you. This can help create a friendlier dynamic and shift the burden off of you being a strict figure to someone who can at least make their day better. Through tutoring at the emergency shelter, I had to learn to be more flexible and work with my situation—adapting to these students and the circumstances of their lives.

So, here are the tips outlined:

  • Make short-term goals and continue as you go on. What would you want the student to learn today (the day you tutor them)? Example: strengthen addition skills. Focusing on the positive each day can help create a bond.
  • Make the best of the time you have with them, and try to be a positive role model for the short amount of time you are in their lives.
  • Ask about their day and interests. If they won’t talk much, tell them something funny that happened to you so that at least they will laugh. Ask some questions about tv shows, music, or books.
  • Each child is different, so you have to really try to get to know them and not view them as someone temporary. Focus on them right now because they are your student for the present. Allow yourself to be flexible with the kids you come across.
  • Keep in contact with the parent(s). This not only helps establish great communication, but also will encourage the family to like and trust you. They may more more dependable as a result.

I wish you the best of luck!


About the tutor: Timesia Garcia is a dedicated volunteer, passionate about helping others. She studies sociology at a local community college and has been tutoring with School on Wheels for almost two years.

Sep 2

Students of the Month – September 2015

Jonathan, one of our Students of the Month

Region 3 – Westside

Lilly, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Lilly, 5th Grade. Lilly is truly a shining star! I met Lilly at the tail end of the 1st grade, and now she has recently entered the 5th grade. We have gone from stuffed animals to an iPad, from Princess Cowgirl to songwriter, from tears to laughter, with many great adventures along the way. At every session, whether helping with homework or using tutorial materials from the SOW website, I am constantly called to be innovative and speak to Lilly’s native intelligence and her often experiential learning style. We have used an imaginary restaurant setting to learn math and money skills, used card games such as “21” for math and strategy skills, created games involving blocks, action figures and Lilly’s huge imagination to help with estimating measurements and creating logical narratives, created similes and metaphors that speak to Lilly, written a song about Tennessee and used a good old fashioned map to trace Lilly’s day. Lilly loves to sing and has performed for me quite frequently. And she has natural drawing talent that seems to creep into every lesson. Lilly also loves to eat and cook – recipe books have roamed into our lesson plans. Sometimes I question whether Lilly is understanding a math concept, and then several weeks later, I find she has mastered it. She is a “stealth learner”. Sometimes Lilly can get overwhelmed when presented with unfamiliar material, so I have learned not to pressure her. Lilly has taught me the value of being spontaneous in teaching, incorporating real life examples and not to sweat the small stuff. My favorite moments of tutoring are when Lilly quietly says, “Can I tell you something?” I know she is really asking me a life skills question, and it is important for her to be heard. The funniest moment was when I had a lot of stubble on my face one session (thinking to grow a beard) and she said, “What is wrong with your face!?” I shaved that same night.

Peter Westermayer, Tutor

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silver Lake, Highland Park

Andres, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Andres, 2nd Grade. Andres is seven years old and an enthusiastic second grader! Andres has been working with Daisy since the beginning of this year. They have tackled math, reading and writing during their tutoring sessions. Andres is a great student who is working to improve his math skills and is making great progress. He continually shows that he is able to work hard and try his best. We are very proud to recognize Andres as the Student of the Month for September! Keep up the great work!

Lancella Hunter, Regional Coordinator

Region 6 – Inland Empire

Dontavion, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Dontavion, 10th Grade. I nominated Dontavion for Student of the Month because he is an energetic and motivated student who always comes to our sessions with a smile on his face. He’s funny, ambitious, and brings new perspectives to every discussion we hold. His dream is to become an actor, and his hard working nature and positive attitude will definitely help him achieve his dream!

Mathangi Suresh, Tutor

Region 8 – Ventura County

Ruby, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Ruby, 9th Grade. Ruby, besides being a Raiders fan, is a consummate organizer. Despite being the youngest in the house, she is the first to jump into a project, pull out her homework, do more than was asked, and be the one helping someone else. She is a positive and energizing student!

Eileen Vocke, Tutor

Region 10 – South Orange County

Shaury and Zizzy, School on Wheels Students of the Month

– Shaury and Zizzy. I have been working with Zizzy and Shaury on math over the summer. They are sisters and both understand math concepts very well. I was surprised that they would often come to incorrect solutions to problems. As we reviewed their work step by step, we figured out they were lacking some of the basic fundamentals that they missed during one of their moves to a new school. Once we reviewed these basics, they caught on very quickly and their problem solving abilities were tremendously improved. It has been a pleasure working with Zizzy and Shaury, and I am proud of their efforts during the summer.

Tsuyoshi Johnson, Tutor

Region 12 – North Orange County

Jonathan, School on Wheels Students of the Month

– Jonathan, 1st Grade. I have had the privilege of tutoring my learning partner, Jonathan, this summer and am excited that he is being recognized as Student of the Month for being an active participant in our tutoring sessions. Each week Jonathan is eager to learn and engage in any activity that I bring for him. It is evident that Jonathan truly enjoys learning.

Although he was hesitant about mathematics at first, Jonathan’s attitude towards the content changed from apprehensive to positive. I quickly learned that he has a strong interest in drawing and coloring. Incorporating his interest in visual art into the mathematics lessons became an effective instructional tool. I know that Jonathan will have continued success in first grade because of his eagerness to learn and commitment to education!

Naomi Sunshine, Tutor

Online Tutoring

Railene, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Railene, 6th Grade. When we had our first session with Railene, she was very shy. After many more sessions, she has bloomed into this funny, outgoing girl. Over the past several months, we’ve taught Railene how to multiply and divide big numbers, and she has improved so much since our first session together. However, it wasn’t always easy! One time we were writing down problems for Railene to do. When she saw them, she said, “NO, NOT DIVISION!” and we all laughed. Now she is a lot more comfortable with math. We also read together from time to time to improve her reading skills. We’re so happy to be able to catch Railene up with some of the skills she needs to help her thrive this next school year, and we’re even happier to continue tutoring Railene for as long as we possibly can.

Sophia Batalha & Natasha Batalha, Sisters & Online Tutors