Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District

Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District News Article

Tutoring Program Provides Valuable Classroom Support

Sept. 26, 2016 -- “It takes a village to raise a child.”

It’s an African proverb, the title of one very well-known woman’s book... and a hard-to-deny truth in education.

Here in Cleveland Heights-University Heights, there are many villages working together to raise our community’s children. And Reaching Heights’ Many Villages tutoring program is one of them.

Almost 10 years ago, Reaching Heights recognized that volunteer support inside the district buildings was haphazard at best. There was no central coordination and many valuable and available people were going untapped. So the organization stepped in to create the Many Villages Tutoring Program, designed to more closely match volunteers with teachers based on their specific classroom needs, to provide the materials for tutors to use, and to support and thank the volunteers so the experience was as enriching for them as it was the students.

Last year, nearly 60 community members volunteered once each week inside our district’s elementary buildings, according to the data collected by Reaching Heights. More than 700 students were impacted by the presence of a volunteer tutor. From practicing reading skills one-on-one, to assisting with a science experiment for an entire class, to reinforcing math facts with a small group, Many Villages tutors make a true difference in the lives of students and in the lives of teachers.

Jennifer Gareau, a first grade teacher at Fairfax, admits that with growing class sizes, “it can be difficult to reach every learner right at their level. The Many Villages program has afforded me the ability to differentiate in a way that would be impossible without an extra set of hands.”

Gareau regularly uses tutors in her room, including a local college writing professor who works with small groups during their weekly story writing time, and parents who come in to help children catch up with their basic math facts. “I’ve had volunteers that work with students at both ends of the spectrum - struggling readers and those that are working above grade level. The assistance my volunteers give is invaluable!”

Classroom teachers determine how best to use their tutors. Some tutors work with the same student or small group each week, and others rotate through stations or offering assistance.

Kindergarten classes across the district follow a more targeted intervention strategy. Reaching Heights worked with staff to identify specific skills kindergartners need to progress on grade level. For those children who arrive at school without any letter and sound recognition skills, the Many Villages tutoring program has helped fill that crucial gap.

In most buildings, individual students are pulled out multiple days each week for 10-minute sessions where they review letters and their accompanying sounds with a dedicated tutor. This repetitive practice and exposure leads to tremendous growth on behalf of the students, who Betty Troccolo, a longtime kindergarten tutor at Fairfax, calls her “little scholars.”

Marian Morton, a tutor at Boulevard and retired American History professor at John Carroll University, thinks perhaps she missed her calling. “These children are absolutely delightful.”

She’s been using the kindergarten literacy protocol for at least four years now and says her students’ progress is “astonishing. They come in not knowing a single letter and they leave reading.”

Students aren’t the only ones learning. Anne Billington, who tutors at Gearity and Fairfax, says she has honed her patience over the 10 years she’s been volunteering. “The kids are all so sweet and eager. I wish everyone could come into the buildings and see how dedicated the teachers are and how happy the children are to work hard.”

Paula Woods, a Boulevard tutor, worked her way through the ranks of education and into administration during her career in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. But being back in the classroom with five- and six-year olds has reinforced an old belief: “Supervising, managing, training and directing are all infinitely easier than actually teaching.”

She believes in the value of public education and said her weekly commitment “lets me put my money where my mouth is.”

Each school building’s Many Villages program is organized by a volunteer, who communicates with teachers and schedules and trains tutors. Susie Kaeser runs the program for Boulevard, in addition to serving as a kindergarten tutor herself. “The teachers welcome us as true partners in supporting their children. It is the very best experience I have had as a volunteer.”

Teachers across the district appreciate the faith the public has in them and the time and energy their tutors offer. Tina Reynolds, a kindergarten teacher at Boulevard, speaks on behalf of her fellow teachers when she says, “We love our volunteers! They make a huge difference in our students’ lives by reinforcing skills, reading stories and spending quality one-on-one time. We couldn't do it without them.”

If any community members are interested in volunteering one or more hours per week in their neighborhood elementary school, they should reach out to Lisa Hunt at Reaching Heights by calling 216 932-5110 or by filling out the Volunteer Registration Form at

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