FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — When Lynn Wymer retired from teaching several years ago, she didn’t want to take the normal route of substituting, so she decided to volunteer.
Wymer still teaches, just in a more direct and personal way. She’s a volunteer tutor with the Literacy Volunteers of Marion County.
“I really missed being able to teach a kid how to read or do math. I missed helping them understand those things,” Wymer said. “When I see the look on their face when they really understand what you’re saying, it gives a deep meaning… you’re not just in front ‘of a class blowing smoke.”
About twice every year, the Literacy Volunteers hold a tutor training session designed to reel in new volunteers who will offer free tutoring services to anyone from students to adult needing one-on-one help in school or in life.
This year, the group did not have a spring training, next month, they’re hoping to refill their ranks. The volunteers have 26 students this year, which is about their average, usually it falls anywhere between 20 and 30.
Currently there are 16 certified tutors in the program. Since many of the tutors have other responsibilities, most can only donate a few hours a week to the program, stretching the services thin and creating the need for the upcoming training.
“Some of our tutors only want to tutor one hour a week, and others are here every day,” Literacy Volunteers Director Susan May said. “It’s all about what fits into their schedule. We have everything from one-on-one tutoring to full (English as a Second Language) classes. There’s something for every schedule.”
The upcoming training will walk participants through the best practices, material and other basics of tutoring. By the end of the two-day boot camp, volunteers will be a certified tutor.
The training will be led by Pam Shanholtz, a tutor with the Literacy Volunteers and the designated tutor trainer with the group.
A big part of the training is to help the tutors understand that people will be seeking help in various ways, whether it be a student needing help with math homework or an adult who never learned how to read.
While West Virginia has an average literacy rating compared to its neighboring states according to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are still almost 20 percent of adults who qualify as illiterate, with Marion County at 19 percent.
Pam makes sure the tutors are prepared for whatever might come their way.
“I really try to impress on the trainees that sometimes it’s our job to play mother hen,” Shanholtz said. “Teaching reading is a tough job and it’s a tough skill to accommodate. That’s why we always start with reading.”
Like Wymer, many tutors are current or former teachers. But the teaching environment as a tutor is far different from the classroom. Teachers are experts at meeting the needs of large groups of children but sitting down face-to-face with one student or adult for an hour every week changes the approach and the student-teacher dynamic.
This is something Shanholtz tries to point out to the trainees.
“My goal is to make us a path to a dream for these folks, particularly the adult students,” Shanholtz said. “Sometimes adults have been put down so much they don’t see a way out, our job is to show them that light at the end of the tunnel and show them the way out.”
The Literacy Volunteer tutor training will be a two-day commitment, starting Friday, Oct. 7 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. then starting again the next day, Saturday, Oct. 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Trainees are required to attend both days to earn the certificate.
For more information, contact the Literacy Volunteers’ office at 304-366-6055.