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Falcon Tutoring Program Benefits Both Tutors, Students

By Ben Jipson
UWRF University Communications

OCT. 30, 2006--While the students in the Falcon Tutor program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls watch students go to school or visit campus on bright yellow school buses, the tutors also ride the iconic yellow buses each time they travel to and from their tutoring experiences in St. Paul public schools.

Though it's a reminder of the bumpy ride reminiscent of elementary school, there is much more meaning behind it, according to Amanda Moeller, an Americorps VISTA member working on the UWRF campus through the Wisconsin Campus Compact program. "This is important because it signifies to the schools that our UWRF students are there to learn as well," says Moeller.

About 145 UWRF students from College of Education and Professional Studies Professor Jose Vega's multicultural education and professor Michael Miller's educational psychology courses make the trip to the St. Paul once per week working to fulfill a mandatory 25-hour multicultural field experience for their respective classes.

Each tutoring session includes one hour's worth of classroom observation followed by two hours of direct student interaction. The Falcon Tutor program is an example of a service-learning experience.

Students are assigned activities, like keeping a journal or a log, to reflect on their tutoring duties. "Reflection is a critical component of any service-learning program," Moeller said.

Among the schools involved with the Falcon Tutor program are Eastern Heights Elementary, Highwood Hills Elementary, Washington Technology Magnet Middle School, Battle Creek Middle School and Arlington High School, and in St. Paul and surrounding communities.               

Students and tutors work together on a wide range of subjects that vary from school to school. For example, students at Washington Technology Magnet Middle School are tutored mostly in math, while students at Highwood Hills are placed in readers-and-writers workshops led by tutors. All of these are areas of emphasis are included in the No Child Left Behind Act. Furthermore, most students have the opportunity to work with tutors in areas with which they need additional assistance.               

The educational benefits for both the K-12 and college students are very visible, but the tutoring extends far beyond any textbook or math problem. Kaitlin Webb, an elementary education major from River Falls, is proud that the students look up to her and her and the other tutors. "We serve as a positive role model for them," she says.               

Cultural diversity has become one of the premier focal points and mission of the UWRF campus, and the Falcon Tutor program provides a perfect setting for students to familiarize themselves with children of different races and socioeconomic situations.               

Michael McCollor, principal of the Washington Technology Magnet Middle School, says the program is a great fit. "The college students--many of whom come from a rural or suburban background--have a chance to get to know students from different backgrounds as students rather than as headlines or statistics."               

McCollor notes that 10 percent of students at Washington Technology Magnet Middle School are Caucasian, and almost all come from low-income families and are eligible for free or reduced school lunch prices.               

Moeller says diversity can also be brought into lesson plans. "They experience not only a diverse classroom, but also the ways in which teachers incorporate a multicultural curriculum," she says. In return, the tutors provide much-needed tutoring services that would otherwise be unavailable.               

Taking part in a community-improving effort provides the Falcon Tutors with real experiences applicable to many areas in life, according to Prof. Miller. "University students have so much to gain through real-time interaction."               

From the Falcon Tutors' perspective, tutoring younger students has its pleasant aspects. Matt Loosbrock, a senior from Lindstrom, Minn., echoed this notion. "The most enjoyable aspect is the variety of minds I get to work with," he said.

Webb went further, saying she likes the idea of "helping someone in a positive way that will benefit them for their entire life."               

Jayne Ropella, principal of the Eastern Heights Elementary School, said her students get the same satisfaction from the Falcon Tutors. "The students love having the college students in the building."               

Learning environments can create challenges for everyone involved, Moeller notes, and the Falcon Tutors have to find ways around these classroom predicaments. Communication is a vital part of teacher-student interaction, and the ability to communicate effectively proves difficult for the students at times.               

"I realized how hard it can be to explain a new concept to a student," said Loosbrock about his tutoring experiences. Webb agreed with that problem, but said, "With the first and second grade levels, we don't run into that problem too often."               

Praise is evident on all sides of the Falcon Tutor program. Everyone from the public school students, teachers and principals to the professors and UWRF students has voiced their appreciation and satisfaction for such an outstanding program. "Everyone has needs met, and everyone wins," Miller said.               

About 150 students from St. Paul public schools will visit the UWRF campus on Nov. 21. Students from Miller's education psychology classes will be facilitating two learning sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, to encourage the younger students to apply for college and also teach them the benefits of a postsecondary education.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:07:42 Central Daylight Time


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