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. 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 laurenmonaco.com.
ST 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 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.
ST 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.
"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."
"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.
- Achievement: This student has done remarkably well academically or has made significant improvement in his/her literacy skills.
- Extraordinary Effort: This student has made extraordinary effort towards academic excellence. This student tries no matter what.
- Leadership: This student is a model of positive behavior at school. He/She is the student who takes on extra projects, accepts responsibility, and exhibits the ability to do the right thing in tough situations.
- Service: This student demonstrates excellent citizenship. If ever there is an opportunity to do something for someone else or for the school, this student is on top of it.
We also take this opportunity to recognize the school liaisons that make the Education Team's efforts fruitful, from principals to teachers who have particularly supportive.