|From left to right: Liyang Liu ’13, Susie Robertshaw, Lindo Ngwenya ’15, Matt Bengtson ’15, Jim Flood.
When Matthew Bengtson ’15 was in eleventh grade, he was tutored. Finding himself struggling in his calculus class, he needed some extra one-on-one attention in order to wrap his brain around the subject. This academic year, the environmental studies major got the chance to pay that experience forward when he became a tutor at Winter Park High School’s Ninth Grade Center. Led by Peer Tutoring & Writing Coordinator Susie Robertshaw, the tutoring program is an initiative that recently garnered Rollins an award from Orange County Public Schools as an outstanding Partner In Education.
Beginning in September 2011, Bengston and a handful of other student volunteers walked once a week to Ninth Grade Center where they spent an hour tutoring the school’s AVID students. An acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination, AVID is a national college readiness system for elementary through postsecondary designed to increase school-wide learning and performance.
Bengston first heard of the program when he visited the community engagement fair during the first week of classes. “I spoke with Susie Robertshaw about the program and felt it would be a really rewarding experience,” said Bengston, who participated in two one-credit training program along with all of the other volunteer tutors to prepare for working with the ninth graders.
“The 10-hour course gives the tutors the chance to learn about things like assessing understanding, keeping the students active while they are tutoring, and making sure they aren’t just talking at them,” Robertshaw said. “They also learn communication strategies and how to work with different learning styles.”
Making a Difference
Bengston really appreciated the training. “It really helped me to become aware of how to teach to different individuals. My interaction and social skills improved
"They really appreciated our help, and it felt like we made a difference," said Bengston, who will become the program’s official student liaison in the fall.
because with each different student, there are different learning styles to adapt to.” These are skills that will continue to serve him this summer, as he’ll be teaching diving and fish identification for students enrolled in a summer camp based in the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, and Hawaii.
Beyond being an informative experience for the Rollins tutors, the program was well received by Ninth Grade Center students and administrators alike. “Having tutors is one of the cornerstones in a successful AVID class, and the class certainly would not have been complete without them,” said Jim Flood, the school’s science department chair and coordinator of the AVID program. “Ninth grade is a difficult transition year for some students, and the Rollins tutors did a great job in helping to ease that transition from middle school to high school. The tutors established great working relationships with the AVID students and my students benefited from that. It was great to have them on campus, and I am looking forward to working with Susie Robertshaw and the tutors again next year.”
Elisa M. Mora, the Ninth Grade Center’s administrative dean, was the person responsible for nominating Rollins for the Partner In Education award. “No amount of money can supplant the importance of the human hours these Rollins students gave to the AVID program. Any school’s most basic need is getting academic support for struggling students, especially those who cannot stay after school to get extra help,” she said. “At the high school level, getting the students to look ahead and focus on life after high school is also a priority. It was only natural to get one of our neighbors to help us. Rollins College and many of its professors, students, and staff have supported our school in wonderful and meaningful ways.”
As Bengston had suspected, the experience was rewarding, so much so that he decided to continue on in the spring semester. “I really enjoyed tutoring; it wasn’t a chore at all,” said Bengston, who will become the program’s official student liaison in the fall. “They really appreciated our help, and it felt like we made a difference. In fact, I just got an email forwarded through Mr. Flood from one of the girls I was tutoring saying she did really well on her math exam because of my help. That felt really good.”
By Kristen Manieri
Office of Marketing & Communications
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