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Seeds Tutor Reflects On 13 Years Of Making Learning Personal

By Mark Yanochko

Tutoring students at Seeds of Literacy has enriched my life, far beyond the satisfaction I receive from the work I do on Thursday mornings. Although helping students learn is the main reason I tutor, my experiences have included personal interactions that extend far beyond the lessons. When a student shares specific details about their private life, the teaching/learning experience becomes very personal, eliminating some of the walls that can inhibit the learning process.

The Walls Come Down

Several years ago, I spent a considerable amount of time working with a young man who was a big baseball fan, just like me. Our mutual love of the game eased the tension of schoolwork. My main objective was to help him with his writing skills, which included writing the basic five sentence paragraph — topic sentence, body, and summary. At first, his topics were very general. Over time, however, they became more personal as we became better acquainted. He wrote about his daughter, the death of his mother, and his high school baseball career.

My student made steady progress with his writing. And, as an added benefit, we developed a friendship — so much so that he went to an Indians game with me and one of my buddies. There we were at the ball park, the three of us watching the Tribe play — not as a student on a field trip with his teacher, but as friends.

Shared Pain

Another student of mine suffered a personal tragedy when her 18-year-old son was killed in a car accident. I was unaware of her heartbreak until my wife died. I had been working with her during my wife’s illness, so she knew when Debbie died. Through the early days of my grieving, I continued to tutor her. Then one day, she told me about her son. Our connection was immediate. No one understands the loss of a loved one taken too soon more than another who has experienced the same loss. As the months passed, I continued to tutor her. We worked on classwork, but every once in awhile, I would talk about my wife and she would talk about her son.

A Surprise Impact

I can’t forget the time I saw a student at Dave’s Market in Ohio City. He was a young man in his early 20s. I had worked with him on several occasions, but not on a regular basis. He noticed me first, and it took me a moment to remember who he was. We exchanged hellos before I noticed the two women with him. I think one was his sister and the other appeared to be his mother. She had this scowl on her face that seemed to say, “Who’s this guy you’re talking to?” Then, he turned to her and said, “This is my teacher.” I was overwhelmed that I had made such an impression on him after only a few tutoring sessions.

Becoming An Educator

Tutoring has been a fascinating experience for me. Besides being able to help people with their studies, I’ve also discovered that I can actually teach. This is particularly evident with writing and language arts.

Writing is something that I do well, and I do it for a living. But when I started tutoring, I didn’t think that I would be able to help other people do it. To my pleasant surprise, I’ve been able to help students with the very basics of writing simple sentences and paragraphs. While it might seem that helping a student write a simple paragraph is not more important than helping them with an algebra problem, to me it’s a big deal.

The Moment of Achievement

The happiest moments in my tutoring experience are during the annual graduation ceremony. It’s just like high school —caps and gowns, family and friends. It is a testimony to the hard work done by our students. It is a demonstration that Seeds makes a difference.

How YOU Can Make a Difference

You don’t have to be a career educator to become a tutor at Seeds of Literacy. You just have to be age 18 or older, with a high school diploma or equivalency, and have the desire and patience to help others. Learn more. Maybe I’ll see you in the classroom!

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About the Writer

Mark Yanochko celebrates his 13th year as a tutor in May 2018. Last fall, he was recognized for ten years of service as a member of the Board of Directors where he is Vice President. He’s also the chair of the Community Relations Committee. Mark is a technical writer by trade.