By Stephen Wilson

Zoom calls. Google Classroom. See Saw notifications. Virtual learning experiences during COVID-19 have altered the vocabulary for public school students across the country and, for some classes, shrunk important support resources for students in need.

Luckily some America Reads tutors at Lafayette College have continued to help engage students in Easton and around the country. Here are a few who are continuing to bring connections, support, learning, and fun. 

Emily Codispoti ’20
March Elementary
Kindergarten
Easton, Pa.

What are you doing?
I was tutoring in the classroom twice a week before the pandemic and reached out to the teacher and asked if I could send in a video of myself just saying hi and maybe reading them a book I liked when I was younger. The teacher said yes, so I sent in the video! The teacher then asked if I would like to join their Zoom call, so I did. I was really curious to see how a Zoom call with a bunch of kindergarteners would go! It was “Wacky Wednesday,” so I was instructed to wear funny clothes. I put on my tiara and a fun scarf.

How is it going?
The teacher and kids completed a crossword, and then we all followed a video on how to draw a snake. We were only on for about a half-hour. I assume this remote learning is especially hard for the younger grades since it is difficult to hold children’s attention over a computer screen, but it’s nice to see how they are finding ways to stay connected!

What’s your motivation?
It was so nice being able to see the kids again, even virtually. I missed them! 

 

Danielle Bellefeuille ’20
Booker T. Washington Middle School
Seventh grade
New York City

What are you doing?
I have Facetime calls with one student for one hour a week. We are working on geometry—area and volumes of 2D and 3D shapes. The student’s mom sends me a worksheet to look at before most sessions, so I can prepare for some of the student’s questions. 

How is it going?
I think it’s harder to look at problems/work together. I video call from my laptop, so unfortunately I can’t flip the camera. If I want to show him some work I put on paper, I have to bring it up to the camera. 

What’s your motivation?
I enjoy tutoring kids and helping them learn. I have also found this very helpful for preparing for my job after graduation, because I will be teaching middle school math. 

Kyle Falatko ’22
Easton schools
Elementary
Easton, Pa.

What are you doing?
I have begun recording myself reading children’s books and then send those video links to America Reads program coordinators, who then pass them on to students’ families. It gives students something to entertain themselves but also helps inspire and aid in student literacy.
Between thinking about how I am to go about recording, uploading, and doing a couple takes, it totals up to a few hours a week, which is near what I would spend in the classrooms during normal tutoring hours.

How is it going?
I still get some of the satisfaction of having read to the kids, but seeing them in person is so much better. 

What’s your motivation?
I miss the students that I tutor, and I want to help them in some way. I have participated in theater for many years, so recording myself acting out a story is easy and fun. I also feel like it’s something I can do that will help the kids in a way that is more than providing homework help.

Gam Pham ’22
12th grade
New York City

What are you doing?
I’m helping my student out with algebra and trigonometry homework twice a week for an hour each session. I ask that my student send as much of the work the night before our session, just so I can brush up on the topics myself. I’ll also try to solve the problems ahead of time so that when I walk through it, I am streamlined and organized. Sometimes I find a video that we can both look at together and try to solve a problem as a team. 

How is it going?
In person I would be able to see what they write down and correct them on the spot if they do something incorrectly. It’s definitely more challenging not being able to look at my student’s paper while working on it. Google Classroom allows me to project my screen so I can share what I’m doing on my end, but I don’t want my student to get into the habit of just copying down everything I’m doing instead of actively working it on his/her own off screen. 

What’s your motivation?
I’ve been tutoring students in math since I was in high school, so it’s truly become one of my favorite hobbies. I love seeing how a student will come to me absolutely hating and dreading math with every fiber of their being, and then come out of a tutoring session more confident in what they’ve learned. I had one student come in hating math and leaving at the end of the semester saying, “Math doesn’t suck as much anymore, since I had you.” It was one of those moments that made me so proud to be a tutor and so proud to see a student come so far in their studies. I want to help in any way I can to bridge the gap between obtaining a quality education and having adequate resources/methods to do so. Although lots of students are struggling around the globe right now, NYC students are especially experiencing the hardships created by this pandemic with the extra weight on students of color. As a student of color myself, I’d like to help out others like me who may be struggling during this difficult time. When I was young, I would have loved to have a tutor help me out with subjects that my non-English-speaking parents and family couldn’t. I’d like to be that tutor for other kids who are struggling now.

Alyssa Megson ’21
Easton Schools
Elementary
Easton, Pa.

What are you doing?
I wanted to create something fun and interactive for parents to do with their children. I am scanning pages from children’s books I have in my house, putting them into a PowerPoint, and recording myself reading them via Zoom. I have a folder filled with activities that match the book theme. It takes about four hours to complete the whole process. I try to do one book per week although final exams have impeded that system. 

How is it going?
It is difficult to know exactly who is accessing it as it has been placed in a “repository” for Easton Area School District instructors/children. It is better in some ways because more children can access this resource and rewatch it as much as they want. The downside is that I am not able to connect with the children as I would be able to if we were in the same room. I miss seeing their smiles, hearing their laughs, conversing with them, and learning together!

What’s your motivation?
Giving back has always been a priority in my life. I am always thinking of ways to make others happy even in quarantine. Anything I can do to make someone’s day and inspire creativity, I will do! Using a virtual platform to do everything has changed my approach, but I am learning how to adapt.

 

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