At RSVP, tutors don't just go to classrooms

RSVP volunteer Clarence Rader tutoring 4th grade students. Photo courtesy of RSVP
RSVP volunteer Clarence Rader tutoring 4th grade students. Photo courtesy of RSVP

How many students can a tutor help? In the case of Clarence Rader – probably more than a thousand!

Each week, for the last twenty years, Mr. Rader visits a first and fourth grade classroom as a tutor. He wears his former professional business suit, but he dresses it up with a festive (and sometimes themed-to-match-the-lesson-plan) tie.

His role is to support each teacher with their lesson plans and provide individual tutoring sessions with students that may well make all the difference for a pupil in learning and retaining a new concept, or not.

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What and how students learn in elementary school shapes how they learn forever. Studies have shown that boys learn better from male teachers or tutors. With the national average of male elementary teachers just above 18 percent, the role of male tutors becomes crucial for boys and for girls too.

First grade teacher Ms. Hawkins said, “The children look forward to Mr. Rader’s visit each week. He encourages them and coaches them through their work. Since my class has a large percentage of boys, Mr. Rader is a wonderful role model for them.” In fact, Ms. Hawkins is so pleased with Mr. Rader’s can-do attitude that she made a donation to RSVP in recognition of Mr. Rader’s time and effort with the students.

Clarence will help reinforce the day’s math lesson by bringing in his collection of coins. “The students were learning about fractions,” he recalls. “I wrote the fraction Ľ on the board and illustrated the problem by using quarters. One quarter only means 100 broken down four times. When I see the lights go on for the students, I know it’s been a good day.”

RSVP of Montgomery County utilizes the expertise and passion of more than 1,200 volunteers to support programs and community efforts throughout the county, impacting our most vulnerable populations. Currently, 49 volunteers participate in RSVP’s SAGE program, which is comprised of several different roles for volunteers.

• Eighteen classroom tutors go into 14 county-wide elementary school classrooms to support the teacher with daily lessons or special projects, offering students some one-on-one time to help reinforce lessons.

• Nine classroom tutors go to the North Montco Technical Career Center and work with high school students, reinforcing hands-on techniques in traditional and shop classrooms. These volunteers dedicated nearly 2,000 hours of their time during the past year working directly with students. Many of these volunteers worked in the trades themselves and offer great insights and tips for the students.

• Sixteen volunteers spend their days as exhibitors and docents at the Franklin Institute and at the National Constitution Center, helping to build excitement in science and history.

• Seven volunteers judge the annual Delaware Valley Science Fair, helping to assess and recognize the work of some of our area’s most talented youth.

• Five volunteers are active with the Montgomery County Youth Aid Panel, established by the District Attorney’s office. The program offers non-violent juvenile offenders an alternative to either Juvenile or District Court. The offender must complete a resolution determined collaboratively by the panel, the juvenile, the parent and the police department liaison. This program has proven highly successful with the majority of youths who have completed the program never again committing offenses. Once resolution is completed, the record of the incident is satisfied and will not interfere with college or job applications. It’s a real second chance.

Simon Edkins has been a volunteer science presenter at the Franklin Institute for four years. His career was in the biological sciences, and he was looking for something to fill his time.

“We don’t know what we’ll be assigned to until we arrive in the morning,” reports Simon. “Every 45 minutes we change exhibit stations, which keeps it interesting. I may be at the brain exhibit in the morning and illustrating paper-making in the afternoon. I come home and tell my wife that today I talked about how to study the spectra of stars, I did a heart dissection, and I was able to illustrate how Leonardo da Vinci created the first drawings with perspective during the Italian Renaissance. I love what I do.”

RSVP volunteers perform myriad tasks, each crafted to fulfill a need in the community, but more importantly, to provide the volunteer with a sense of excitement and accomplishment.

To learn about how you might become a volunteer, visit www.rsvpmc.org or call (610) 834-1040, ext. 123.