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Tutor Called Miracle Worker

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Mrs. Beverly Dann of 1576 Newport Road calis her work with elementary, junior high and high school youths "language arts tutoring." But her legión of admirers insist it's much more than that. "She not only helps the children to learn, she also helps them gain confidence. Mrs. Dann is as much of a psychologist as a tutor," says Carol Snyder, the mother of two of Mrs. Dann's pupils. "When she lea ves Ann Arbor, I don't know who's gomg to replace her," Mrs. Snyder added. Another mother talked about Mrs. Dann "working miracles" with her child. Enthusiastic comments like these abound from teachers, parents and children who have known Mrs. Dann's tutoring over the past eight years. A classroom teacher for 25 years (six of them in the Ann Arbor Public Schools) before she began tutoring year-round at her home in 1963, Mrs. Dann has helped 114 different children to get back on the academie track in the past eight years. This summer, 29 children who range in age from about six to their teens come to Mrs. Dann's comfortable home across the street from Forsythe Junior High t o receive tutoring. (There is a charge.) "A lot of the children' s grandparents can't understand why they want to come to school in the summer," Mrs. Dann laughs. "But they seem to love it. A lot of them say at the end of the hour: 'I haven't been here an hour yet. Why can't I stay?' " All of her pupils have readi n g problems (sometimes perceptual handicaps) and most of them "simply cannot opérate in a large classroom atmosphere," Mrs. Dann says. Many of them also have not learned enough self-discipline to help them become academically successful. Mrs. Dann has a variety of ingenious methods to interest them in learning, and she does it so gradually they often don't realize what's happening. Each child, for example, must put together tracing books to help them with their reading and writing. Mrs. Dann also has them memorize poetry, make collections I of shells, rocks, wood, fossils, and buttons, and regularly visit her "centers of interest" located in different parts of her home. One center has encyclopedias and dictionaries, another has poetry books, still another has dolls and other artifacts f rom different countries. "My husband and I travel a lot and I'm a great collector," she explains. She leans heavily on the Reader's Digest basic skills books, and also tries to interest the children in mathematics, geography and science. She says she often teaches by association, such as making up rhymes to help the youngsters remember certain concepts. Field trips to near and notso-near places also are on Mrs. Dann's and her husband's agenda. (Her husband, Meivin, is a teacher at Cassidy Lake Technicál School.) In the past, they have taken her pupils on train trips to Kalamazoo, to Greenfield Village, Kensington Park for hiking and boat trips, the weather station at Willow Run Airport, the Irish Hills' prehistorie village, the Sylvania Fossil Beds, Bird Hills Park, and many other spots. Swimming and camping trips also have been planned. The students must later write articles for their tracing books about their field trips. Mrs. Dann's husband makes various teaching aids for her, such as balance beams to improve the children's coordination. He also built a small, rock-bordered pond in their backyard, and the youngsters delight in bringing fish and other things to the pond. Mrs. Dann also keeps a lending library in her home, so the kids can "read for fun at home." Mrs. Dann explains that J her main objective in tutoring the youngsters is to "leave them with a feeling of j success. In school, ■ they fail so often that it's important to help them feel successful." She says she also gives them only what they can handle, and eases them into more difficult work, thus countering parents or teachers who push them too hard or too fast. "I teil the children we 're all gifted in some way, and that they 're all basically smart," she confided. But her main secret of success, she thinks, is that she loves her pupils, and it comes through. "I'm just crazy about the kids and they know it. Kids know when you do - you can't fake it." Mrs. Dann says many of her students now regularly make the honor roll or have gone on to college, and lots of them stop by to visit her regularly. It hasn't all been a bed of roses, of course. Some of the children "just didn't pan out, and so I didn't keep them. I have strict discipline at my house, and if the children don't cooperate, out they go," she says. Mrs. Dann works with each child individually for part of his or her lesson, and they work by themselves or with their peers for the remainder of the time. She tutors them anywhere from four months to three years, depending on their level of disability when they come to her. "But I don't keep them any longer than necessary. When they have attained their own grade level in reading, they are graduated. If I keep them too long, I become a crutch," she believes. When the youngsters are ready to be "graduated," Mrs. Dann throws a party for them, and presents them with certificates of achievement. Mrs. Dann's pupils, their parents, and local teachers have nothing but praise for her, a native of Kalamazoo who has lived in Ann Arbor for the past 14 years. She is a gradúate of Western Michigan University, earned a m a s t e r ' s degree at the University of Michigan, and did gradúate work at various colleges in the west. "She has such a great interest in the children - it's not on a money-making basis at all," says Mrs. Carol Snyder of 1725 Hatcher Crescent. "I just can't say enough about her. She 's so dedicated." Mrs. Ann Niemann of 1501 Hillridge commented that the "warmth of Mrs. Dann's personal relationships with the children is marvelous. Her tutoring helped my son, Dann y , tremendously, b o t h schoolwise and personalitywise." Anna Fulton, a first and second grade teacher at Ann Arbor's Angelí School, told The News several of her pupils have been and are being tutored by Mrs. Dann at Mrs. Fulton's request. One of her students with a severe speech impediment made "just amazing" progress after being tutored by Mrs. Dann. Another child with various emotional problems showed "extra confidence and self-esteem within two weeks after the tutoring started. I could see the difference that fast," Mrs. Fulton said. Mrs. Fulton feels that Mrs. Dann's long tenure as a classroom teacher has made her "aware of the difficulties a classroom teacher faces and very sympathetic." She also feels Mrs. Dann's natural science background and interests help her reach her boy pupils - who are the majority. Mrs. Dann and her husband plan to move to a retirement home in North Carolina in two years - a home they have built themselves in the mountains 40 miles west of Asheville. And it won't be surprising if she is persuaded to continue her tutoring down there, though her present plans don't include that possibility. "Some parents have asked if they can send their children down to North Carolina for s u m m e r tutoring," Mrs. Dann explained with a smile.