Missouri S&T student tutors help the community from home

RDN REPORTS
FILE - Aerial photo of the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus.

Eleven student tutors from Missouri S&T’s teacher education and certification department each tutor between two to five K-12 students from local school districts. These students range from second grade through senior in high school. The tutors are able to help students in every subject except foreign language during online Zoom sessions. The tutors report that the online format has posed both benefits and challenges. 

One benefit of online tutoring, they say, is that they are still able to tutor and earn experience hours even if they’re quarantined. This format has also enabled them to create their own schedules and tutor on the evenings and weekends. When school was in person, this wouldn’t have been doable. 

“I don’t think the tutors have faced any challenges beyond scheduling. I’ve heard good feedback and our teacher education students learn a great deal from working with students and tracking their growth,” says Dr. Beth Kania-Gosche, professor and chair of teacher education and certification at Missouri S&T. “In our program, we used technology extensively even before COVID-19, so our students are familiar with Google’s Suite for Education, the platform many K-12 schools use.”

Christina McEachern, a current student tutor, is working toward bachelor’s degrees in applied mathematics and economics, in addition to her emphasis area in secondary education. She’s currently tutoring two students – a seventh grader in pre-algebra and a high school senior in advanced placement calculus. Next year, McEachern will earn field experience hours as a student teacher. 

McEachern has experienced some challenges while tutoring that she says are unique to tutoring online during a pandemic. 

“Communicating through Zoom requires more verbal communication than normal tutoring, where I could just point to a problem on a piece of paper,” says McEachern. “It’s also harder to read their facial expressions to gauge their understanding of the material.”

The student tutoring program has helped McEachern prepare for student teaching, she says. The program has built her confidence and prepared her for the types of questions students are likely to ask and how she can best answer them. 

“I’ve been reminded of what it’s like to be in high school,” says McEachern. “Being reminded of the way high school students think and learn compared to college students has really helped prepare me for student teaching next semester.” 

In addition to helping elementary and high school students, the Missouri S&T student tutor program is also helping working parents. 

“Our department wanted to offer this service because it’s so difficult for parents to work and try to supervise online/hybrid learning for their children,” says Kania-Gosche. “Parents find out at a moment’s notice that their child is quarantined; they aren’t able to plan in advance for that situation.”

The tutoring program has provided a new way for Missouri S&T students to earn experience for their teacher certifications and has also provided the local K-12 students with additional learning options during the pandemic.