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Seeds Celebrates Tutors for National Volunteer Week

April 18 – April 2022

“We won’t do it,” they said. “We refuse to choose just one.” But each Site Coordinator had to do just that when they selected a tutor to represent all of the wonderful volunteers at Seeds during Volunteer Appreciation Week. Make no mistake, every tutor is valued and appreciated at Seeds and these are just the first names that came to mind.


ANDY WEISS

Andy Weiss began tutoring with Seeds in the beginning of 2021, during the height of the COVID pandemic. With our physical classrooms closed, our virtual classroom was growing quickly, and we desperately needed dedicated tutors who were able to work regularly with students. How lucky we were that Andy found us! She tutored in reading every Monday night for months, usually working with the same student.

When our physical classrooms reopened last summer, I was delighted when Andy began tutoring at our Kinsman location. She has worked with emergent readers and with students who are days away from taking their Language Arts GED tests. Andy offers as much support and encouragement as students need, but she makes sure that students are challenging themselves. At the end of a recent class, the student with whom Andy was working told me with a smile, “She made me WORK tonight!”

Andy has a background in educational publishing and curriculum development, and her knowledge of reading skills acquisition has been a huge benefit to our students. She has great curiosity about how adults learn to read and become better readers, and has attended our Emergent Reader workshops to learn more. Andy also possesses the quality our students repeatedly tell us that they value most: patience. We are so grateful to Andy and all our other tutors who choose to share their many talents with Seeds!

~Melina, Virtual Classroom Coordinator


MICHAEL FERENCE

Our tutors at Seeds possess a remarkable, selfless dedication to helping others in need. A brilliant example of this is Michael Ference, who first came to Seeds in late 2019 — only to see the classrooms close due to COVID a few months later. But when the Virtual Classroom launched in September 2020, Michael quickly became a staple in the Zoom class.

As a Site Coordinator for the VC, it is always a bit of a relief to see Michael logging into class. He is one of our best math tutors, who is able to explain any math skill from the basic addition to the most complex quadratic equations. Also, we often have students who are not only in need of learning the skill, but building a confidence in themselves, especially when so often their previous schooling experience has zapped all confidence in their abilities. Michael doesn’t only teach math, he brings out the real student, encouraging and praising their natural abilities, no matter their level. It is a comfort to me to know that a student will come out of a tutoring session with Michael improved both academically and emotionally. 

Michael’s calm and straight forward demeanor has attracted more than a few students to request him specifically. One student in particular, Ariana, worked with Michael on her GED math section, starting with fractions and working all the way through functions. Ariana passed her math test and received her GED with the help of Michael. 

I personally appreciate Michael for all he does, and I know everyone at Seeds appreciates Michael, too. The pandemic has disrupted so much in our lives, and having Michael as a steady presence for not only our students, but for all us at Seeds, is more than we could ask for.

~Todd, Virtual Classroom Coordinator


AMANDA SEBROSKY

“Do you need me?”

This is how Amanda Sebrosky answers the phone when she sees a call coming from Seeds of Literacy. It is almost always followed by “I’ll be right in.”

During the rapid growth of our Virtual Classroom, there were some days when students outnumbered tutors and staff scrambled to provide students with the one-to-one tutoring Seeds promises its students. Amanda reliably answers the call.

After retiring, Amanda searched for volunteer opportunities near her and found Seeds of Literacy. She especially liked that she could help Seeds from her own home by tutoring in our virtual classroom. Amanda typically tutors math, often higher level math, in the Seeds virtual classroom, but she is always willing to tutor reading, science, or social studies if needed. Amanda recently reached her one-year anniversary of tutoring in April of 2022 and has logged over 300 hours instructing our students. Our students appreciate her calm and friendly demeanor and her ability to demystify math. 

Amanda is an avid naturalist, as well. In addition to Seeds, she volunteers her time with many other organizations: the Cleveland Metroparks, Lights Out Cleveland, and other groups that care and protect the plant and wildlife in our local environment. A special passion of Amanda’s is raising awareness about the importance of native plants. Restoring native plant habitats is vital to preserving biodiversity and supporting an ecosystem upon which local wildlife depends.

Amanda nurtures growth in her own backyard much like the academic growth Amanda fosters in the Seeds virtual classroom. Thank you, Amanda!

~Anne, Virtual Classroom Coordinator


BOB GAIER

Since reopening our in-person classes last July, we’ve been able to welcome back many masked, but still familiar, friendly faces. And we’ve also been able to include so many new and wonderful tutors to the Seeds Family! Bob Gaier may seem to be a new face here at Seeds (he just started tutoring with us in January 2022) however, he’s no stranger to our program. Actually, we’ve been on his mind for 25 years!

“Bob originally read about Seeds in his church bulletin 25 years ago when we had just opened at St. Colman’s. He and his wife went through training, but unfortunately, were unable to start tutoring due to conflicting work schedules. Until now! After retiring in 2011, Bob wanted to be able to give back and decided to volunteer at a few different organizations. Periodically, though, he checked on Seeds and was delighted to see that we were looking for tutors! He thought we would ultimately be a great fit because we offer one-to-one tutoring, which he really enjoys.

Devoting two days a week to Seeds, Bob tutors math with enthusiasm, kindness, and patience. “You have to be flexible; be adaptive,” he says, “and willing to meet each student where they are at.” And that is what he enjoys most – getting to work with different students and getting to know them because “if a person is at ease they’ll learn better.” Always willing to help, Bob has tutored both in-person and online, going wherever he is needed most. Even on quieter days, Bob can be seen sitting at a table reviewing and becoming more familiar with our materials in order to ensure he’s ready for whatever our students may be working on. “You never know what you’re going to walk into, so you have to be on your toes.” The Seeds staff, and our students, really appreciate Bob’s willingness to go the extra mile to be prepared to help them. (He even takes work home with him so that he can come back with an answer to a difficult problem from the day before!) I personally, along with the entire Seeds staff, would like to thank you, Bob, and all our tutors for everything you do for Seeds! We’re so happy you joined the Seeds family! 

~ Kara, Seeds East Site Coordinator


ELIZABETH KNAAK

Every April, the Site Coordinators at Seeds of Literacy find themselves in a difficult position.  National Volunteer Week is the perfect occasion to highlight some of our exceptional tutors, but we at Seeds are spoiled for choice.  So many of our tutors are exceptional!

Still, there are some people that somehow manage to stand out from the crowd, either through their constant commitment to education, their eagerness to work in almost any subject, or their ability to encourage students to keep working towards their goals.  This year, I want to highlight a person who excels at all three: Elizabeth Knaak.

Elizabeth has been a tutor at Seeds of Literacy since 2018.  When she comes in to tutor, she almost always stays for two sessions of class.  She’s a great tutor to welcome new students to the Seeds classroom, as she is warm and engaging.  However, she also works often with long-term students, who know that a class with her will be a positive experience.

Elizabeth is more than just a friendly presence in the classroom, though she certainly is that.  She is also a community-builder, someone who thrusts herself into whatever activities are happening in the classroom.  Before the pandemic, when it was safe enough to have a large group of people crammed into a small little room, Elizabeth always made sure to find her way into the group, often with fresh oranges or some other healthy snack to share.  She’d also bring in stories she found and engage in group readings.

Furthermore, Elizabeth has an infectious enthusiasm.  Her eagerness to learn new things is obvious to everyone who meets her, and she’s a wealth of information on a wide range of topics, from the latest showings at the Cleveland International Film Festival to her love of bats.  Talking to Elizabeth almost always yields a fascinating tidbit of knowledge.

In short, it’s always a pleasure to see Elizabeth walk in off the elevator.  She is caring, knowledgeable, and a fantastic cheerleader for our students.  So, in trying to highlight excellence in our volunteers, I can hardly think of someone more deserving than her.

Thank you, Elizabeth.  You make our classroom a better place!

~ Chris, Seeds West Site Coordinator

We appreciate each and every one of our of volunteers! Check out other tutor profiles: