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Tutors Fill Special Needs Of Pupils

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Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.
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During the 1965-66 school year, there were three School Volunteers. By 1969-70, the number zoomed to 70. And this year, they total about 150. But teachers and principáis in the Ann Arbor Public Schools continue to ask for more tutors, especially for additional blacks and for more men. "As the program gets better .known, more and more people ask for tutors," says Mrs. Susan Newman, coordintor of the Tutorial Programs of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. This year - the program's sixth year- the nonsalaried School Volunteers tutor youngsters in 23 of the 25 elementary schools, at three of the city's junior highs, and at Huron High. College degrees, special talents or elabórate skills aren't essential to be a School Volunteer, Mrs. Newman ■ commented. The primary requirement is a deep interest and concern for children, and a willingness to work at least a few hours weekly in a school. The volunteers must be able to tutor youngsters at least twice a week in order to be accepted. The majority of volunteers work on a 1-to-l basis with children, usually in some quiet area away from the hubbub of the classrooom. Others work with small groups of youngsters or as .■ assistants to the classroom teacher. "Our program is based on the premise that all children have special needs and the classroom teacher simply can't handle all of them," Mrs. Newman said. "We try to look at the needs of the youngsters, the needs of the schools and individual talents, and then bring them together in the most meaningful way possible." Volunteers at elementary buildings are usually placed ; in schools near their homes, and Mrs. Newman is trying to expand this "neighborhood concept" 'topthe junior highs and high sefiools. Four current volunteers - all wjh different backgrounds', and interests - talked to The News about their tutoring careers. Prof. John F. Riordan of 1707 Harding Rd., a professor of mathemtics and engineering at University of Michigan's Dearborn campus, is one of the few male School Volunteers. (Tutoring must be done during the school day, and most men are unable to get the time off from their jobs.) But Prof. Riordan, the father of five, has a more flexible schedule than many men, and is able to tutor two mornings a week. He hclps students (both boys) with math and reading, and has been tutoring at Tappan Junior High since last spring. One of the youths he tutors had asked for special help in math. "They're fine kids to work with. I like to work with kids," Riordan explained. He says he especially likes the i 1-to-l relationship, but would like some objective evaluation on whether the tutoring is doing any good. (This apparently is very diificult. Most evaulations of the program have been subjective.) Mrs. Bettye McDonald, a young black mother of two tiny pre-schoolers, tutored three black teen-agers in civics and English at Forsythe Junior High last semester, and will probably help three students again this semester. A former elementary schoolteacher i n Virginia, Mrs. McDonald enthusiastically told The News she "really enjoys tutoring. It's probably one of the most satisfactory experiences I had last year." She plans to continue tutoring, even though she sometimes had difficulties lining up baby sitters for her tots, aged 2 and 4 years. Mrs. McDonald and her family live at 3019 Hilltop Dr. Mrs. Mitzi Dickson of 1635 Hillridge Blvd. was the veteran of the tutors interviewed by The News. She has been a School Volunteer for about three years, first at Wines School, now at Forsythe. Mrs. Dickson put together a group of 10 women last year to tutor at Forsythe (during the 1969-70 school year, she was Forsythe's only School Volunteer). She is the citizen i coördinator of the Forsythe group. - Five of the 10 Forsythe women work with individual students and individual subjects. The other five work I with Mrs. Carol Lauhon in I the school's Individualized I Learning Center, where special help is available for students who have had bad experiences with school. The five assistants help ILC sutdents with remedial reading and any other subject they rqeuest. They also do some general counseling. Mrs. Dickson, a former high school English teacher in New York, sees her role and that of the other assistants working in the ILC as "helping the students become independent." A fourth volunteer, Mrs. Francés Welton, has tutored two young foreign students at King Elementary School since she entered the program last March. Last year, a first-grade girl from Italy who spoke little English was her charge. And this year, she does general tutoring for a child from India. Mrs. Welton, a Bible teacher at the Packard Rd. Baptist Church for the past. 14 years, said her tutoring job is at times "very rewarding, and other times, quite discouraging, just like my job. But when I see my student respond and a light of understanding comes into her eyes, it all seems worth it." Persons interested i n becoming School Volunteers I may cali Mrs. Newman at the i schools' Special Projects I Office at 665-0694.