By Mike Counter
St. Norbert College News Service
Hundreds of K-12 students from Arizona to New York are taking advantage of e-tutoring services offered by education students through a collaboration of private and public universities in Wisconsin.
Some 200 students at four Wisconsin institutions began providing free grade-appropriate online instruction last week to 650 students across seven states.
The initiative, started by St. Norbert College associate professor of education Bola Delano-Oriaran, includes St. Norbert, UW Oshkosh, UW-Stevens Point and Ripon College. Plans are underway to expand the effort to other colleges and universities in the Midwest.
“This e-tutoring program connects college students and faculty with their communities and empowers all involved to intentionally engage while applying academic coursework to address community issues,” Delano-Oriaran said. “In tutoring, our teacher candidates are deepening their knowledge as they apply concepts learned from their teacher education college courses, while K-12 students also are continuing with their learning in the midst of COVID-19.”
Eric Brunsell, associate dean of UWO’s College of Education and Human Services, said it is important for universities to give back and help children while in-person classes have been suspended across the U.S.
“Our job is to prepare our students to be successful in the classroom. This tutoring experience is an innovative approach to give our students strong experiences when traditional approaches are unavailable,” Brunsell said.
Although there isn’t a state-mandated number of clinical hours a teacher needs prior to graduation, UWO assistant professor Stephanie Bernander said these hours provide important classroom experience to train teachers in lesson design and how to monitor student learning.
“By having our teacher candidates involved in tutoring we can still work with them by providing feedback on their lesson design and instructional techniques,” she said. “It will be a unique experience for them to assess student learning and build relationships with these students.”
UW Oshkosh senior Bree Lamers, an elementary education major from Appleton, Wisconsin, said she feels lucky to help K-12 students with their academics during this challenging time.
“This project will allow me to continue to enhance my teaching skills as well as to make sure students are getting the necessary help that they need with their schoolwork at home,” she said. “Adapting to a situation as large as a pandemic isn’t easy. All of the tutors, including myself, will be able to discover new ways to teach students virtually.”
Lamers looks forward to building a connection with her students.
“Each tutor will continue to work with the same K-12 students throughout the rest of the semester, allowing us to build rapport – something that is key in education,” she said.
St. Norbert junior Christina Dull, an early childhood junior from Frankfort, Illinois, agrees.
“What I hope to take away from this experience is getting more practice for my future as a teacher. I also hope to form connections with my students and give them and their families the help they may need during this crazy time,” she said.
Another St. Norbert junior, Chloe Steffel, of Suamico, Wisconsin, said she hopes adapting to teaching virtually will open doors for education majors and the K-12 students.
“I hope to take with me my experiences on how to come up with individual curriculums that allow me to help my students in every way possible,” she said.
As Delano-Oriaran watches the e-tutoring program grow day by day, she is thankful to have the opportunity to make an impact.
“Doing this work in the midst of a pandemic has allowed me to stay grounded and at peace while ‘called’ to serve my students, my college, my community and our nation one day at a time,” she said.