Volunteer Spotlight: Andrea Martin

Andrea Martin started volunteering with APIE in the fall of 2013. As a new addition to APIE, she has already had a huge impact on her students. Andrea enjoys dedicating her time as a classroom coach helping improve the reading skills of middle school students in Austin.

APIE: What sparked your interest in volunteering with APIE?

AM: I used to teach middle school reading and missed working with middle school kids and heard about APIE through the Teach For America Alumni network here in Austin. APIE gives me the opportunity to support the teachers and administrators who are working hard every day to create an environment for excellent education in AISD.

APIE: What is something unique about APIE that stands it apart from other organizations?

AM: I feel like the volunteers are well-trained for what we are doing and we receive a lot of support. It’s also great consistency that for the most part we spend an hour every school week with the same kids. With this, we really get to see our kids through the course of the year.

APIE: You are currently working with 6th graders. What do you like about that age group?

AM: Middle school is a really tough time for everyone and if I, as a volunteer, can make the day a little easier, I want to be able to do that for my students.

APIE: What do you do for a living?

AM: I currently work in consulting for non-profits. Every day I am required to spend at least some time proofreading so I must be a careful and thorough reader for my work. For this reason, I am able to give my students clear examples of the importance of slowing down and paying close attention to what they are reading.

APIE: You have a Bachelors degree in English and Government and a Masters in Secondary Education.

AM: I point to my English degree with my students to tell them how important reading is to me. I hope they’ll learn to enjoy it and find it important in their own lives as well.

APIE: This is your first year as a volunteer. What has been the best part of the experience so far?

AM: As a citizen of Austin, I enjoy being able to learn and be a part of our city schools in at least this small way. It’s exciting to see the students learn something new or figure something out for themselves. We also have fun discussions during and after reading and it’s great to see them engage in our stories!

APIE: You seem to be making a lot of progress in the short amount of time you have volunteered.

AM: For me it’s valuable to be back in a classroom and having even a small opportunity to help my students grow as readers. I’ve greatly enjoyed working with my students. I love learning about them and their interests and also watching them have small successes in the classroom.

APIE: Have you faced any challenges as a volunteer?

AM: My biggest challenge has been with their attendance. It’s hard to see my students miss class, especially when I know they’re both already below grade-level readers.

APIE: What are some ways you feel volunteers can help with student attendance?

AM: Get to know your students and take an interest in their lives. Treat them like they’re adults and find ways to relate what they’re reading and learning about to their own lives.

APIE: APIE focuses on having small-group interactions between the volunteers and the students. Do you believe the students benefit from a personal learning environment?

AM: I’m so glad that I can give my students a little one-on-one time for reading practice. I know it’s valuable for them to be able to read aloud in such a low-pressure environment. As a volunteer, it is also great to be able to support the excellent work that tireless teachers like Mrs. Spear are doing every day with our students.

APIE: If you could tell your students one thing, what would it be?

AM: I’d just encourage them to find books and reading materials that interest them and read to them every day. That’s the only way I know they will become more successful readers and learners.

APIE: What do you hope APIE can achieve in the future?

AM: I hope APIE can continue to give more students the opportunities for classroom coaching sessions. I’m so glad programs like APIE exist to bring community members into our city’s schools and hope that even more members of the community will get involved with the program so they can have a better idea of the great work that is going on in our classrooms.

Volunteer Spotlight: Nick Bradley

Nick Bradley is an Aerospace Engineering Doctoral student at UT Austin. During his three years volunteering with APIE, he has been an 8th grade Math Coach for nine students and is currently a Classroom Coach at Webb Middle School.Nick Bradley

While looking for ways to positively engage with the Austin community, Nick Bradley found an Austin Partners In Education posting for math coaches in the service announcements at his church. “Math coaching sounded like just the right fit,” Bradley says.

In the final year of his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering, Bradley is a dedicated individual who believes that good comprehension and problem-solving skills are the keys to pursuing higher education. For this reason, Bradley has been an APIE volunteer for three years and has worked with nine students all over Austin, encouraging them to work hard every day.

Bradley believes that to be a classroom coach, one must be dedicated to seeing real change and understanding occur in students’ academic and personal lives, no matter how long it may take. “Individual rapport with each student is vital to the methodology of APIE coaching, and coaches must be willing to get to know the students on a personal level,” Bradley says.

But there are a lot of challenges that classroom coaches must learn to overcome.

Sometimes students will seem uninterested in and disengaged from the group. One student in particular has proved to be a challenge this year for Bradley. “The frustrating part is that I see that this student understands the concepts,” Bradley says. “It has been a struggle to keep trying to include the student without detracting attention and help from the others.”

For this reason, Bradley is constantly learning how to better accommodate each student’s individual needs as a learner. While the math is an important part of the learning program, Bradley believes that it is also important to engage personally with the students and find out how they are doing and what they are excited about. “The students really want someone to show that they care about them, not just another teacher who comes in and makes them do math problems.”

One thing that has really drawn Bradley to volunteering with APIE has been the positive interaction with the people in the organization. “The coordinators and other volunteers really care about each individual student, and I value organizations that incorporate one-on-one interactions with the beneficiaries,” says Bradley.

Bradley also credits his commitment with APIE to Sandy Bootz, his volunteer coordinator. “Sandy has been an outstanding coordinator for the three years I’ve worked with her,” Bradley says. “She is a gifted teacher and leader and cares individually very well for each volunteer.”

If he could leave his students with one message, Bradley would tell them that their teachers, parents, and volunteers genuinely care about them. “Your success in school and in life is more than just a hobby for all of us,” Bradley says. “You have a value beyond just being a student with a homework grade, and you are not made any less or more of a person by your performance in school.”

Bradley hopes that APIE can continue to have a positive impact all over Austin in the future by enabling students to be confident community leaders. “I think it is a core component of APIE’s methodology to have individual interactions with students that remind them that they are capable, that they have intrinsic value, and that they are cared for as people.”

Starting Off on the Right Foot: Four Steps Towards Building a Positive Mentoring Relationship

Thanks to all who attended the volunteer and mentor happy hour at Tacos and Tequila last Thursday, March 27! Our coordinators had a great time getting to know you and are looking forward to seeing you again next month! If you missed the happy hour, check out the handout below, based on information from “Meaningful Mentoring.

1. Listen attentively

Sit with an open, calm posture. Laugh with your student and show genuine interest in what he/she is saying and doing.
Example Scenario: Your student takes out a book about the Great Barrier Reef and begins talking about it. You listen as your student talks and lean in slightly in your seat.

2. Ask inviting questions

Limit the number of questions you ask your student during your time together
Use “what” or “how” questions. Avoid “why” questions.
Example Scenario: As your student talks about the book, occasionally ask your student “what” he or she likes about the book or “how” she became interested in reading about the Great Barrier Reef.

3. Summarize content and feeling

When your student speaks or does something, occasionally say something that summarizes what he or she said or did
Example Scenario: Show that you were listening to your student by re-stating, in your own words, what you heard him or her say. Include any facts about the Great Barrier Reef that the student seemed most interested in speaking about.

4. Strategic self-disclosure

Tell your student some things about yourself over time. Use your own experiences to further explain something the student is reading or doing to give more context and create better understanding.
Example Scenario: Tell your student about a time when you visited a coral reef. Or tell your student about an interesting book or article that you have been reading and have your student ask you inviting questions this time.

 

 

 

APIE’s 2013 Blog in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Give the Gift of a Mentor

APIE Mentoring by the Numbers:

  • 972: Number of volunteers who have registered to mentor through APIE for the 2013-14 school year
  • $21,938: Value of volunteer service each WEEK if all 972 are placed, according to Independent Sector’s value of a volunteer hour in Texas
  • $125: APIE’s cost to support one mentor for one school year
  • 124: Number of Austin ISD schools where APIE mentors can serve
  • 4,000: Number of students still on the waiting list for a mentor in Austin ISD

Mentors can positively impact student attitudes and ambitions. Research has proved many benefits of mentoring, including:

  • keeping students in school
  • building students’ self-esteem
  • reducing likelihood of student involvement in risky behavior or use of illicit substances
  • decreasing depressive symptoms
  • improving student grades and academic attitudes
  • Developing students’ communications skills,
  • modeling and encouraging goal setting and taking steps to achieve those goals

To meet the needs of more students, we invite you to Give the Gift of a Mentor this December. Beginning with #GivingTuesday on December 3 and continuing through December 31, APIE’s goal is to raise $10,000 to broaden support for its Mentoring Program. Thanks to a generous $5,000 matching grant challenge from the Oppenheimer Foundation, a private Houston-based family foundation, your donation has the power to double its impact!

About #GivingTuesday

Give the Gift of a Mentor#GivingTuesday is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The second annual #GivingTuesday is on December 3, 2013. In the same way that retail stores take part in Black Friday, we want the giving community to come together for #GivingTuesday. (via)

Online Tutoring Resources

In the age of Twitter, Instagram, and Vine, it is increasingly hard to engage students with paper resources. Even the test APIE’s high school seniors have to take (the TSI, or Texas Success Initiative) is completely digital and graded by the computer immediately upon completion. This is pushing not only our Classroom Coaches and College Readiness Advocates, but also educational institutions themselves, to become more creative and tech savvy about how they make knowledge available to students.

Universities have reacted to these demands with the creation of MOOCs or massive open online courses. Schools like The University of Texas and Rice University jumped on the MOOC bandwagon fairly early and new schools are signing up every day. APIE is also using MOOC-style resources for its College Readiness tutoring. ChompChomp.com, a website serving up “grammar with attitude,” provides diagnostic testing, lessons, and quizzes over writing skills, but the new staple of most Advocates’ repertoire is Khan Academy.

In 2004, Salman Khan — who had degrees in math, electrical engineering, computer science, and business — began tutoring his cousin living in Bangladesh over the Internet. The lessons were so successful that his other family members also requested tutoring. To accommodate the increasing demand, he moved his lessons from Yahoo’s Doodle Notepad to YouTube. But it was not just his relatives who were interested in his videos; people from all over were watching them. So Khan quit his job and started the website and non-profit organization Khan Academy.

Khan Academy offers diagnostic testing, instructional videos, practice problems, and assessments over a variety of subjects including math, biology, physics, chemistry, finance, computer science, history, logic, and grammar. The math lessons are totally free and incredibly thorough, ranging from the most basic math to calculus. Students are motivated to master skills through a badge system that rewards hard work and improvement. Teachers, parents, and “coaches” can sign up and track students’ progress.

As new technologies become available, communication and education must evolve. APIE and its tutors and mentors are constantly looking for new ways to connect with students and boost their performance. Khan Academy — and the many other websites, MOOCs, and online resources cropping up each day — are one way we can engage students who are more accustomed to Kindle and YouTube than textbooks and projectors.

Amanda Mills, College Readiness Advocate

Save the Date: Dec. 3, 2013

#GivingTuesdayWhat is #GivingTuesday?

#GivingTuesday, in short, is a celebration of giving. It is a growing movement to celebrate and provide incentives to give. A first of its kind effort, #GivingTuesday will harness the collective power of a unique blend of partners — charities, families, businesses, and individuals — to transform how people think about, talk about, and participate in the giving season.

The second annual #GivingTuesday is Dec. 3. Mark your calendars! Immediately following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday aims to inspire people worldwide to improve their communities by giving back to local charities and causes they support.

How did #GivingTuesday start?

New York’s 92nd Street Y was the catalyst for #GivingTuesday. The U.N. Foundation provided their strategic and communications expertise, and a team of advisors shaped #GivingTuesday’s strategy. Mashable, Facebook, Variety, Groupon, and the William Morris Agency gathered leaders in the social good world for influencer meetings across the United States. More than 2,500 charities, organizations, and corporations participated in the first #GivingTuesday on Nov. 27, 2012.

Organizations saw a marked increase in donations year on year, and the movement left 2.5 million social media impressions, including those by the White House, the Clinton Foundation, and Bill Gates.

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