Volunteer Appreciation Week
Each year, we celebrate National Volunteer Appreciation Week by highlighting just a few of our INCREDIBLE volunteers! (And, each year, staff members gripe about having to pick JUST ONE (each) to highlight). Here are their submissions:
Many of our students are intimidated by math when they first join Seeds and worry that the math section will prevent them from earning their GEDs. Bruce Kowalski helps students see math as something they can conquer. Students have told me, usually with a fair amount of surprise, that Bruce can make math fun.
For years, Bruce volunteered twice a week in the evening on the West side. Every Tuesday and Thursday, he would set up at a table in the middle of the room and wait for students to join. He typically worked with multiple students at once, moving around the table to help with whatever students needed, and he usually had snacks on hand to reward students for their hard work.
Bruce took a break from tutoring after we closed last spring and were primarily offering tutoring over the phone, but rejoined in the fall when we opened our Zoom virtual classroom. I was able to convince some students to start class again because they knew that Bruce would be there to work with them!
Studying virtually can lack the sense of community and connection found in our physical classrooms, but Bruce has helped make the virtual classroom a welcoming place. His patience and sense of humor help put students at ease as they work through challenging material and help motivate them to keep studying.
~ Melina Lindsey
It’s difficult to believe that it’s been a full year since this pandemic started and Seeds had to close its physical classrooms. And yet—thanks to the help of our incredible tutors—Seeds has thrived and our virtual classroom continues to grow. Last March, the Seeds East Math Club, led by longtime tutor Bill Cook, had just hit its stride when suddenly the pandemic hit. Unsurprisingly, that did not deter Bill, who was quick to take up the challenge of tutoring virtually with many of our other dedicated tutors. Bill’s dedication to helping others, along with his inquisitive nature and kind presence, make him an excellent tutor and vital member of the Seeds Family. He is constantly able to adapt — as he did when I asked for his help with Math Club and when we had to shift so drastically to a virtual classroom — in order to best help each individual student. And he is always willing to answer our call (literally!) when needed.
Bill typically tutors higher level Math, but enjoys tutoring all levels and subject matter. He told me, “I enjoy the variety and different levels; it stretches me to different subject matters where sometimes I’m only a few minutes ahead of the students.” Bill is always more than willing to dive in and appreciates getting to know students and hear their stories. Although he enjoys how “the virtual [classroom] opens things up and it’s interesting to get students from all over,” he’s more than ready to be back in the classroom. The classroom, he says, always felt like “ a group of friends – not teachers and students.” We feel the same way, Bill. I personally, along with the other Seeds staff, cannot thank Bill enough for his help and appreciate him and all our tutors so much.
~ Kara Krawiec
Our tutors at Seeds of Literacy possess a remarkable, selfless dedication to helping others in need. A shining example of this is Lynne Brenner, who first came to Seeds in 2018 and has been a staple in both the physical and virtual classrooms ever since.
As a site coordinator for the virtual classroom, I am always happy to see Lynne logging into class. We often have students who are in need of not only a tutor, but a calming presence in their life, someone who is willing to listen to them, to hear them when they are are so often not heard by others. Lynne is willing to meet our students where their needs are, approaching any and all subject matter with a kind and calm attitude. It is a comfort to me, to Seeds, to know that a student will come out of a tutoring session with Lynne improved both academically and emotionally.
It is assuredly because of her friendly nature that a few students have made strong connections with Lynne. One student in particular, Twila has been working with Lynne over the phone and over Zoom for the entire pandemic. Lynne has helped Twila make progress in her education during an extremely trying time.
I personally appreciate Lynne for all she does, and I know everyone at Seeds appreciates Lynne, too. The pandemic has disrupted so much in our lives, and having Lynne as a steady presence for not only our students, but for all us at Seeds, is more than we could ask for.
~ Todd Seabrook
Seeds is fortunate to have a large number of enthusiastic and knowledgeable tutors. Jan Young stands out in both categories. When I asked what it was that motivated her to volunteer, she described how she first heard about Seeds when someone came to speak at her church. She didn’t sign up right away, but once she retired, Jan pulled out the pamphlet about our program. Looking it over, she decided that this was how she wanted to give back.
I’m very glad that she chose to come to Seeds. Being good with people is vital to being successful here, and Jan seems to get along with just about everyone. Since she began tutoring in February of 2019, she’s demonstrated both care and patience in equal measure, and these are the traits that students tell us they value the most in our tutors. Moreover, Jan is able to explain difficult concepts to students in a way that makes even the most challenging skills seem approachable.
The last year has been extremely difficult. We’ve asked a LOT from our volunteers, and have been tremendously fortunate that so many folks were willing to step up and help us meet these challenges. At the outset of the pandemic, Jan was willing to become one of our very first tele-tutors. Since then, she’d transitioned into a regular presence in our Virtual Classroom. Speaking to her about this experience, I asked Jan if there was anything she’d want to share with her fellow volunteers. She told me that she really appreciates the flexibility that our online classes provide. Then, after a short pause, she added that she’s really looking forward to the time when we can meet in-person once again.
We feel the same way, Jan.
~ Chris Richards