The most important part of Associate Professor Caroline Chiccarelli’s Diversity and Multiculturalism in the Classroom course may be requiring students to spend time serving as tutors in some of Worcester Public Schools’ AVID classrooms.
Worcester Public Schools’ need for college students to serve as volunteer tutors in these classrooms dovetails with our Education Department’s longstanding relationship with the school system. The majority of the department’s student-teacher placements are in a Worcester school the semester before graduation, but AVID enables aspiring teachers to gain classroom experience long before then.
“The more they work hands-on with students, the more effective their student-teaching practicum will be,” says Associate Professor of Education Caroline Chiccarelli, Ph.D. “This is the last course in Stage One, so it’s important for them to start the transition from students to practitioners.”
Chiccarelli expects her students to spend 20 hours observing students in a public school classroom, 10 of which have to be as an AVID tutor. Some students find AVID tutoring so rewarding that they spend their entire 20 hours in that classroom.
By the end of the semester, “they’re up to the task and that’s really rewarding,” she says. “They’re more poised, more confident, and more articulate about teaching being their life goal.”
“One of the proofs of the success is that the students want to continue working as AVID tutors,” Chiccarelli adds. “You can tell they’re bonding with the students and are committed to helping them in school.”
That bonding blossoms over the course of a semester and is rooted in the AVID tutoring philosophy. “It’s not traditional tutoring, it’s guiding the students through the problem they’re having to the answer through higher order thinking,” explains Janet Mathieu, Worcester Public School’s community resource and AVID specialist. “The tutors facilitate small-group learning and the skills necessary for our students to become independent learners.”
“We could not be as successful in our AVID mission without the tutors,” she adds.
The components of AVID (Advancement Via Individual Development) were first developed in 1980 by a teacher in San Diego, Calif., to prepare “diverse students in the academic middle” to enroll in four-year colleges. Its success fueled adoption in school systems around the country, and today, the AVID System is used in more than 5,700 schools in 46 states.
In 2001, Worcester Public Schools was the first school system in Massachusetts to adopt AVID. It is used in eight middle and high schools and eight elementary schools around the city. AVID also is delivered school-wide at Dr. Arthur F. Sullivan Middle School and Burncoat High School. Students from colleges around the city serve as AVID tutors, and the Hanover Insurance Foundation funds many AVID many training opportunities for students and teachers.
In addition to assisting AVID teachers and students, the WSU students are considered role models simply by being college students. As such, they embody the ultimate goal of this nationally recognized academic support system: Increasing the number of public high school students who enroll in four-year colleges.
“I like the feeling of walking around and helping everyone,” says Wyatt Rogers, a junior English major with a minor in secondary education who was an AVID tutor at Worcester Technical High School. “It gives me a window into the field and affirms for me that teaching is what I want to do with my life.”
Matt Doiron, a junior history major with a minor in secondary education, was a tutor in Vanessa Acheampong’s AVID classroom at North High School. “I can’t sing her praises enough,” he says. “She knows how to connect with her students so well, and they have so much respect for her. It’s been so wonderful to have this experience.”
Mikaela Dionne, a sophomore English major with a minor in secondary education who was an AVID tutor at Burncoat High, enjoyed making connections with students and helping them better understand their assignments. “They brainstorm and share together,” she says. “My job was to keep them on track. That was when they realized I was there for a purpose.”
Volunteering as an AVID tutor is open to WSU students majoring in other subjects as well. WSU students also can sign up to speak to students at one of the AVID elementary schools about their experiences as a college student. More details are available by contacting Mathieu at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508.799.1234, or Sara Sisa, who is serving as a WSU clinical professor and coordinating student-teacher assignments for WSU education students, at email@example.com.
“We can accommodate many WSU students,” Mathieu says. “Our goal is to have seven students to one tutor.”
About the Photo: WSU student Matt Doiron helps a student in an AVID Elective class at North High School in Worcester.
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