Oct 25

October 2021 Volunteers of the Month

Elyse Stelford

Elyse really goes above and beyond with her tutoring sessions and finds useful tools to help her during tutoring. She has shared many great resources with me and she also advocates for her student and her student’s mother. She ensures that Khalil is getting the appropriate resources at school and has great communication with both him and his mother. Elyse is patient and kind and makes her sessions fun and engaging. She is great at listening and makes sure Khalil feels heard and valued. 

-Yesenia Ontiveros, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I was a general education classroom teacher for 6 years, so getting to use my teacher skills to help my student understand a concept (and potentially even have some fun while doing so) is very rewarding. I also just truly love getting to spend time with our kids. They are all so funny and sweet! They get so excited to share their day or about something they read or a show they are loving. Grown ups don’t have that same enthusiasm. Working with kids is the best! 

Recently, I saw that Khalil was struggling with his multiplication facts. So I decided to go back to basics and use more concrete visual aids to help him. Usually we start our sessions with some drawing time and we will take drawing breaks throughout the session. We were working on multiplication using the visual aids and Khalil was CRUSHING it. When I asked him if he wanted to take a drawing break, he said no. I was stunned. I asked him, do you want to keep going because you’re doing such a great job and you’re good at this? He said yes. It made my heart so happy that he felt confident and didn’t even want to stop to draw! 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

If someone is considering being a volunteer tutor, I would tell them to do it! Don’t hesitate! Sign up today! You do not need to be a teacher. Anyone can help! Everyone has something special they can bring to the table to help enrich the life of an incredible School on Wheels kid!

Sai Rithvik Kotla

I decided to nominate Rithvik for his incredible desire to give back to others and help give the gift of education. He is always willing to tutor multiple students while being a student himself! It has been great to see Rithvik grow and build relationships with his students. 

-Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I always felt that education is the most important thing in life. When people are educated they can contribute significantly to a stable and stimulating community. I wanted to help people in need and School on Wheels had a perfect combination of my interest and my passion. By volunteering with School on Wheels, I’m not only helping people who are in need, but I’m also helping them learn. I feel rewarded when my students finally make a breakthrough and understand something they’ve been struggling with and I’m able to have a direct impact on their work.  

My most memorable experience was when one of my students, who was struggling with math when I first began tutoring, told me that they started feeling comfortable doing math as our tutoring sessions went by and were able to ace a test in school.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

You have the chance to make a real difference in the life of a child and ultimately, the greater community. Volunteer tutoring is easy and fun, and you get to experience your student’s positive responses and growth.

Amanda Zaumeyer

Amanda’s immense kindness and advocacy for her student has inspired me during such an uneasy and unpredictable time in the pandemic. Her ability to think on her feet and create innovative ways to help her student constantly amazes me! I am very thankful for all of her persistence and empathy. 

-Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

The personal connection—I’ve been working with Lexi now for a year and a half—and the satisfaction of helping her through high school algebra and other tough subjects is so gratifying. Plus I really enjoy my time with her. We love chatting about life, our dogs, our taste in TV and music, etc. She’s so positive and has such a great laugh. Last month Lexi had studied for hours for an algebra test, but she still wasn’t feeling 100% confident, so she asked me to make her a whole new practice test to go through. I was so impressed by her determination to keep working until she “got it,” even though she had already put so many hours in. 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

Do it! You’ll get more out of it than you put in. 

Tim Bonds

Tim is a fantastic and dedicated tutor who gives up extra family time so he can tutor his student online on the weekends. He spends extra hours ahead of time finding resources and reviewing his student’s assignments so he is more than prepared for each session. Tim is such a fantastic asset to the School on Wheels program!

-Chris Walsh, Regional Coordinator

My first year of college I found that I was unprepared for the level and pace of my math classes. It was only through the help of friends that I was able to succeed. I have always wanted to pay it forward to others as the best way to repay that kindness. It is most rewarding to partner with families and students that put a high value on education, set challenging goals, and work hard at achieving them.
I have been very impressed with the progress that Mariam has made. Each week she attempts a new set of challenging math problems, and we go over those that are most difficult in our tutoring sessions. The very next week I will quiz her on similar problems—and she can solve them without my help!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

One should consider all of the instances in one’s own life in which we have been helped by others. What was the impact of each gift? How did it change our immediate situation and our lives into the future? In what ways can we offer the same things to others?

Erika Lin

Erika is compassionate, patient and understanding. She effortlessly connects with her students; always going an extra mile for them and advocating for them. It is inspiring to see how much her student Haze trusts her and leans on her for support. Erika is currently tutoring two students. I admire her dedication and flexibility for her students. I am grateful to have her on my team.

-Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have always loved working with children and adolescents of all ages. Most of my experiences are from summer camp counseling or in a hospital setting, but never in education. I realized this past year at work, I enjoy teaching and mentoring. Moreover, I was ready to be challenged in a different arena. Luckily, my good friend told me about School on Wheels and when I learned more about the mission of this organization and target population—I knew it would be a rewarding experience. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of tutoring is hearing a student say “this was really helpful.” I love watching my students improve and gain clarity where there is a potential learning gap. As a tutor, I have also improved in the way I explain concepts that I can personalize to the student’s learning style; I have learned to think about multiple approaches to a concept so that I can cover all the important details. Lastly, I am humbled by how hard these students work despite their life circumstances. At times, they can transition between multiple schools within a month. Their willingness to continue to learn, show up for tutoring, and bring positive energy is incredible. 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?
Do it. You will not regret it! It is a simple yet incredibly rewarding commitment each week with the potential to make a life-long impact on a student. Even if you feel like working with kids may not be something for you or you have no experience with teaching, the numerous resources and support at School on Wheels will definitely prepare you. Also, we have all been students at some point in our lives, so relating to these students might be easier than you think.

Sara Williams

Sara exemplifies a dedicated, passionate volunteer tutor! Not only was she the first tutor I ever matched at School on Wheels, but she has gone above and beyond to tutor both in-person and online. 

-Jesse Pasquan, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I first learned about School on Wheels (SOW) when I worked at Girl Scouts—a troop was raising money for the organization, kids helping other kids. It touched me so much that I looked into the organization, and was really drawn to the mission and program. It also felt like a wonderful opportunity to make a tangible difference in someone’s life. I’ve loved being part of SOW ever since.

There are so many reasons why I continue to tutor with SOW, and why I’ve found the experience incredibly rewarding. Yet what I’ve found most rewarding is creating a connection with my students like Serena—letting them know there’s another adult cheerleader in their lives, encouraging them to keep going, and inspiring them to do their best. The students have so much pressure to deal with; through tutoring, I strive to provide a respite and safe space for students like Serena to learn, grow, and have fun.

There have been so many great, memorable experiences with Serena, but I’d say the most memorable was our Shakespeare project. During summer break, I looked through SOW’s suggested activities, and came across a site with virtual tours of cultural institutions. I shared that list with Serena , and she wanted to check out the Globe in London.We decided it’d be fun to spend the next few weeks working on a brochure about Shakespeare’s life, works, and legacy. Serena got to flex her impressive graphic design skills! It’s a project I’ll always fondly remember, and hope Serena will as well, especially when she studies Shakespeare later in school!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

For me, tutoring is the best part of my week and can easily transform my day from bad to good. Even if you don’t have a background in education, SOW makes tutoring easy with great resources and enthusiastic (and accessible) staff. The whole volunteering experience has been incredibly positive and rewarding, and I recommend it to anyone interested in working with youth and/or helping unhoused folks. By committing an hour each week to tutoring, you’re doing wonders for the community, for today’s youth, and for yourself. 

Janet Adams

Janet is an incredible role model and mentor. She goes above and beyond for her student Hailey every single week. Janet comes prepared for every session. There are slides, books, pictures, and personalized activities waiting for her student in every session, both academic and non-academic. Her kindness, dedication, and commitment to Hailey and her family are inspiring. I am grateful to have her on my team.

-Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I meet with two incredible educators every six weeks. We are retired and one of them mentioned that her daughter found out about School on Wheels and shared the information with me. I applied right away. I wanted to continue to give to others my love of education, teaching, curriculum, and technology.  

School on Wheels provides a systematic platform that is incredibly easy to use and learn. The training, the resources, and the coordinators have made my induction a joy. My weekly opportunity with Hailey is not taken lightly. I think about our conversations, her academic position, and Hailey’s emotional health after every session. I examine my conversation and teaching strategies when we leave the session. How can I make the next session better? What am I missing? I really am not looking for my own personal rewards. I am here to serve Hailey and her mother.  

I love the moments when Hailey makes connections. Recently she was reading a book in Epic and the subject matter brought up a personal connection. As she was reading about minerals and their names, she lit up, showing me her bracelet and necklace. The mineral name she was reading was the same mineral that was in her jewelry. 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

The time spent with a student is giving back moments of learning and life lessons that may bring that student a foundation that they will build on from time to time. Your experiences are tried and tested and many of us have gone through fires that refine us into amazing human beings. With grit and determination, why not become a School on Wheels tutor?

Margie Johnson

I nominated Margie because she always goes above and beyond for her students. Even when her students are going through tough times, Margie always shows up ready to help them learn. Margie is always the first one to respond about helping with events and recruitment. She always has a positive attitude! 

-Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I was a teacher and wanted to work with children again, and I liked the idea of working with students who needed help with school work. I have worked with School on Wheels for about 10 years—mostly in person at Esqueda in Santa Ana. It is a great opportunity to help a student improve their academic skills as well as their self-esteem. Needless to say, I feel great satisfaction about what I am doing.

Batool Hussain

Batool brings the utmost patience, kindness, and care to her tutoring. She meets challenges with grace and persistence and is always thinking of ways to improve her students’ tutoring experience.

-Emma Gerch, Digital Learning Specialist

As a teacher, I’ve seen the disparity in the quality of education available to different populations. I’m going in a different direction with my career now, but I still wanted to use my teaching skills to help fill in some gaps. The first time my student got through an unfamiliar book pretty smoothly, I was so proud!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

Prepare more things than you know you’ll have time for… you’re constantly going to have to adapt to the mood or technology problems or your activity just not going the way you thought!