The Minnesota Reading Corps is desperately seeking volunteers to serve as tutors for grades K-3 in the Anoka-Hennepin School District where more than 30 reading tutors are needed.
Minnesota Reading Corps Program and Community Partnerships Manager Chris Erickson said the massive need for tutors is a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Schools now have two or three different learning models in place, and so extra support is just really helpful to reach more and more kids this year,” he said. “That’s why so may of our schools asked for more tutors this year even though it might be a heavier lift to logistically put it all together.”
Erickson said the Anoka-Hennepin School District is not the only district in Anoka County that’s in need of Minnesota Reading and Math Corps tutors, which are a part of AmeriCorps Minnesota.
“The pandemic has thrown schools a lot of curve-balls this year in figuring things out for their kids,” Erickson said. “It has thrown people a lot of curve balls as well in figuring out their time, availability and their comfort level in what they feel safe doing. Where we’d normally see more applicants in some areas ... those numbers have changed dramatically this year. We are also seeing an uptick, though, in some other areas from people who say, ‘Hey, I know I’m in good health, I know there’s a pandemic but I’m not overly concerned for my own safety and I really want to do something right now that’s meaningful to help.’”
Erickson said anyone who is 18-years-old or older with a high school diploma can apply to become a Minnesota Reading or Math Corps tutor.
“We literally have people from all walks of life who come to serve,” he said. “You don’t have to be from education, a tenured teacher or a licensed educator to join our program.”
Tutors receive training and are provided lesson plans to prepare them for their tutoring sessions.
Tutors can work part or full time at 18-35 hours a week. All tutors receive a stipend every two weeks during their term of service and are eligible for benefits such as free health insurance, child care assistance and tuition and loan repayment options.
Due to COVID-19, tutors have the ability to serve virtually at home. Erickson said whether or not tutors can serve virtually is taken on a case-by-case basis. He said approval depends on the tutor’s needs and what learning model the school they’re serving is currently using: in-person, distance learning or a hybrid of the two.
“Our tutoring program this year has evolved,” Erickson said. “Some people come into schools or they serve entirely from their home. All our practice work we do with our students has also been redeveloped where we still do the same things, but it can be delivered in a virtual setting.”
Hope Hovde-Ayers, from Brooklyn Park, is a current Minnesota Reading Corps tutor who has been serving at University Avenue Elementary in Blaine for the last two years. Hovde-Ayers is a retired teacher who taught as a special education teacher for more than 30 years.
Hovde-Ayers said that after three decades as a teacher she felt she wanted to return to working with students. When Hovde-Ayers was supervising student teachers at a school she met a Minnesota Reading Corps tutor who told her about the program.
“I thought this was perfect, so I immediately applied,” she said. “I really wanted to give back to the students.”
Hovde-Ayers works part-time, one-on-one with students. Last school year she tutored eight K-3 students in the morning at University Avenue Elementary who were in Adventures Plus, which is the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s school-age care program that occurs before and after school.
“I do it because I enjoy the students, Hovde-Ayers said. “I enjoy their energy and my time with them. It truly makes you feel good when you see someone progress. It warms my heart when you see a kid pick up skills ... and they get excited about reading.”
Now, due to COVID-19, Hovde-Ayers has been tutoring four K-3 Adventures Plus students virtually from home in the morning. This school year, the Adventures Plus program has reduced its number of students to the students who most need assistance.
Hovde-Ayers said she’s working with University Avenue Elementary to serve as a tutor virtually in other areas.
“Kids who have good reading skills are going to be more successful as they go up in the grades,” Hovde-Ayers said. “Now with COVID-19, I’m another person who’s stopping and checking in with students, besides their teachers, who will work one-on-one with them. There are students who really like and benefit from that one-on-one time. I’ve never taught a distance learning class, but I’m sure it has to be very difficult for a lot of the quieter students to get attention. I, though, can give some of those kids the attention they need one-on-one, and I think they benefit from that. I encourage anyone to talk to or apply with AmeriCorps.”