Ascension began a tutoring program in 1991 after polling neighborhood families to ask what program would be useful to them. Tutoring for children was the most requested service. Ascension contacted the staff at neighboring East Silver Spring Elementary School (ESS), and established the present tutoring program in partnership with the Parent-Teacher Association.
Ascension members Suzanne Hood and Dr. Clara Wing, both professional educators, coordinate the program. ESS School staff identifies children who can profit by individual tutoring, collects information about their needs, and maintains a waiting list. Ms. Hood and Dr. Wing recruit the volunteer tutors, train them, and assign on child to each tutor. They provide ongoing guidance to tutors and communicate with the classroom teachers about each child’s progress.
The tutoring takes place on Saturday mornings and on Wednesday afternoons in the church Sunday School rooms at 630 Silver Spring Avenue, Silver Spring, MD. Children work one-on-one with tutors on reading and writing, skills, and math skills if appropriate. The program maintains a large book collection and a computer lab with educational software that children and tutors use together. The individual attention from an adult is important for the children, and they enjoy snacks and play during their break, as well as the academic work.
The Tutoring program had seven children and seven tutors in 2003-2004. In June 2004, 100% of the children’s teachers enthusiastically reported that the program helped the child both in reading/language arts skills and in study skills.
Dr. Wing, who speaks Spanish and French, handled communications with the students’ parents, many of whom could not speak English. This led to the creation of an ESL program for adults at Ascension. The Literacy Council of Montgomery County trains volunteers for this program. Each student is asked to pay $15 at the beginning, which goes to the Literacy Council to cover part of the cost of the textbooks, but there is no weekly or yearly charge to students. Ascension’s ESL teachers also meet several times a year as a group to share ideas and discuss challenges.
ESL teachers find their work fascinating and rewarding. The contact with people from another culture enriches their lives, and we find it exciting to watch students progress from the early stages of learning English to a command of the language that opens doors for them in the workplace, enables them to help their children with school work, and allows them to participate more fully in the community.