Education Team

Tales from the Trail - Part One


A Week at Markham Springs - Written By Sara Levine, ERT Yr 18

This week was an exciting week for our Emergency Response Team on the Bike Trail. We were able to bring a team of 14 people! In addition to 8 ERT members, 6 members from the Education Team joined us. Although it was a short week (Memorial Day), we were able to get a lot of work done on the trail. We made it around the halfway point of the section we are working on. It was a short week filled with bouts of rain, riverboat rides, and lots of trail. We taught the Ed Team members about building tread for a bike trail and how to use different tools. It was educational for everyone!

One of the awesome things about the week was camping at the Markham Springs Recreation Area. Markham Springs is a part of the Mark Twain National Forest. The best part about staying there was meeting the campground host and hostess. They were so gracious in welcoming us into their campground. When we arrived we were given a basket of homemade sugar cookies. They were amazing to us. They told us many times how happy they were to see the youth of America caring about things like the country’s national parks.

It’s meeting people like that who make all of our long days worth it. It helps remind all of us that even though we can’t always see the finished product, someone can and they are thankful. It reminds us that when we serve, we are doing it for people like Lavinda and Henry High, who genuinely appreciate all of the work we do. It was especially gratifying for our team this week because we were able to directly help out the High’s. There is a trail – The Eagle Bluff Trail – at Markham Springs that they were hoping we could fix up for them. The trailheads had become overgrown with vegetation and there were fallen trees across the trail. Our last day this week we stayed at Markham Springs and helped maintain the trail. We cleared out the trailheads and did a little maintenance along the trail, got rid of all of the downed trees. The trail is a beautiful little path that runs along a ridge overlooking the Black River. Now that people can actually see where it starts, hopefully more people will use it and enjoy it.

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-Stay Tuned for more Tales from the Trail-


School is out for Summer


School is out for summer, however the AmeriCorps St. Louis Education Team is still in action in the community! Each Education Member will continue to support at-risk youth through local programs such as the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, St. Jane Center, Youth Learning Center and the Crisis Nursery.  Summer programs are crucial for retaining and increasing the progress made during the school year by providing needed structure and literacy tutoring.

On May 11, the Education Team hosted its annual end of the year Champions Ceremony. It's focus was fully on the kids. Thirty-seven outstanding students were honored for their extraordinary effort throughout the year and for the academic achievements that they have made. As each Student Champion was called up to the stage to receive his or her award, they were greeted by the cheers and applause of the nearly 200 guests in attendance. The proud students and families made the event a fitting end to  another successful school year!

2011-2012 School Year Success Story

"[One of my students] started Kindergarten in October. She had never been to preschool or acquired any skills for going to school. Leaving her mom and siblings was very traumatic for her. She would cry for hours in the classroom everyday. This was impeding her learning as well as the learning of the others, and her crying wasn't slowing down.

When she became one of my students, I met with the principal and the counselor to come up with a plan. The student had responded positively to me, and she worked well in my classroom so I felt that I was in a position to help her adjust to school. Following our plan, I met her at the beginning of school everyday and went to her classroom with her. We would do her tutoring in there at a table and gradually shift to the classroom activity. I also did some activities with her to help her acquire coping skills for separating from her family and being independent at school, such as drawing a picture of her mom to keep in her pocket all day and reading a book about a little girl who was scared to go to school but learned that she liked it. Once [she] was calm and situated with her class, I would remind her if she did well during the day with her class, she could come up to my classroom at the end of the day for ten minutes.

For the first few days of implementing the plan, [she] would still cry some at the beginning of the day and when I left her classroom, but it was much less and continued to decrease. After two weeks, she did not cry at all, and now I didn't even have to meet her in the morning. She has learned that she can be happy and successful at school away from her family. She just needed a little support while adjusting. Now she can work well in the classroom and learn along with everyone else." -Year 18 ED Team Member

Great Story - Bobo and Ellie - A Child's Illustrated Book


AmeriCorps St. Louis Education Member Lauren Monaco with her student Adhitya ST LOUIS - I had the opportunity to tutor Adhitya during the course of her second grade year at Woodward Elementary. Her family, originally from Bhutan, lived in a Nepalese refugee camp for 18 years, along with many others who were forced to leave Bhutan in the early 1990s. I met her one year after she and her family resettled in St. Louis. Adjusting to American school life was a difficult challenge, as she not only had the fears of fitting in and making new friends, but also the difficult task of learning about a completely new culture and language. The urban SLPS classroom was very different from the bamboo huts which housed the school she was accustomed to in the Nepali refugee camps. Adhitya was a quick learner, and over the course of the year she became more and more comfortable using her English. At first she was extremely shy, but after a while she became more at ease and would talk and talk and talk. I learned that she loved to draw and noticed that she always paid special attention to the way illustrations were depicted in the books we read together. I wanted our projects to incorporate her love of drawing. One of the things I focused on in our tutoring sessions was getting her to recognize basic sight words. Throughout the year I wrote little stories that incorporated the sight words that she needed to work on. All the stories followed the adventures of two best friends named Bobo and Ellie. After she read each story, Adhitya did the illustrations for each page. For her end of the year present, I bound the stories along with her illustrations into a hardcover book for her to keep. Great Story Lauren Monaco Bobo Ellie Great Story Lauren Monaco Bobo and Ellie Great Story Lauren Monaco Bobo Ellie Great Story Lauren Monaco Bobo Ellie Lauren Monaco served on the Education team during year 17 at Woodward Elementary. She earned a B.F.A. in Illustration from Washington University in St. Louis. Her work can be seen at

Great Story - A year of growth


AmeriCorps St. Louis Education Member Arlene FairST LOUIS - At the end of second year of service, now as the Team Leader at Woodward Elementary, I decided to tutor a couple of my students from last year once more before the end of the school year. My little first graders have become taller, almost-third-graders, and they are no longer in need of tutoring. They do, however, enjoy special attention nonetheless. At the close of one of our final group tutoring session, I let each of my second graders choose a couple of books to take home. I asked my once-struggling readers to name their favorite thing about second grade - they answered, "READING."

On the way back to class, I told my students that I would miss them very much. They assured me, "We will miss you too, but we can write to each other, and we can remember you when we read our books." That made my heart melt. These kids did not know how to read or write when I first met them. Now they enjoy reading and are proud of it.

Arlene's Year 16 Students

Arlene Fair served with the AmeriCorps St. Louis Education Team at Woodward Elementary during Years 16 & 17. Both of her parents are teachers and she's moving with her husband, another teacher, to California to pursue a Masters in Literacy.

Great Story - How does that make you feel?


AmeriCorps St. Louis Year 17 Education Member Matthew Kutz with student AntasiaST LOUIS - Back in April, I was working with my champion, Antasia, on a new book that was just slightly above her level. She has some difficulties with producing content and writing sometimes, but she is excellent at picking up new words and blend sounds, and I use that to build her confidence. I went over the blends we already knew on the board and introduced our new sound, /ch/, and drew a picture of a chick to help her remember it. Then we set about reading Clifford and the Chick. Antasia struggled at various points with bigger words and the occasional "Magic e" controlled long vowel sound, and she had to repeatedly look at the board to remember the /ch/ sound. When she struggles, I tend to let her, because she doesn't give up. And in this instance, she really struggled and she really didn't give up. I guided her until we got through the whole book and then we had a talk.

AmeriCorps St. Louis Year 17 Education Member Matthew Kutz with student Antasia"Antasia, do you know what you just did?"

"I read the book."

"Yes! You did! But what made me really happy was when you stayed focused and figured things out, even when they were difficult for you. That's very good to see, and it will help you both in school and life."

She smiled.

"How does that make you feel?"

"I feel proud of myself."

"Well, I'm proud of you, too," I said, smiling.

Matthew Kutz served with the AmeriCorps St. Louis Education Team at Woodward Elementary during Year 17. After working for Sports Illustrated's photography department for several years, he decided to attend medical school and joined AmeriCorps St. Louis to begin a life of service. His experiences in AmeriCorps have strongly influenced his decision to become a pediatrician.