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So Who Is the Student?

Education Majors, Elementary Students Learn from Tutoring Program

School let out a while ago, but third-grader Tyler Clinton is good and ready to read. His tutor, Aquinas College student Jason Turner, has been reading “The One and Only Ivan” to him, showing Tyler how to change the expression in his voice to match the characters. Now it’s Tyler’s turn.

“I want to read the whole book,” says Tyler, with the picture book “A Hairy Story” opened before him.

“Okay, I’ll let you read the whole book,” Turner says. “Guess what – we’ve got 50 minutes of reading now. We’re going to take advantage of it.”


Tyler starts in reading aloud the story of a boy getting a magical haircut, injecting the quotations with energy as Turner advised him. “’I wish my hair would grow back again really fast!’” Tyler reads with gusto.

Aquinas College student Jason Turner helps third-grader Tyler Clinton read a book aloud in their after-school tutoring session

He’s one of about two dozen pupils being tutored this afternoon in classrooms throughout West Oakview Elementary School. Twice a week after school, a dozen Aquinas students come to help them with reading, in a program that nicely marries the preparation of future teachers with students needing extra help.

Aquinas students have been coming to Northview schools for six years under the partnership. It served about 100 students with 70 tutors last year at West, North and East Oakview elementary schools, Crossroads Middle School and Northview High School. Tutors this year also began coming to West Elementary School in Wyoming. The programs are coordinated by teachers who are adjunct literacy instructors at Aquinas.

Kim Strayhorn, a West Oakview literacy specialist and Aquinas adjunct, calls it “a win-win for both organizations.”

“For the Aquinas students, they get the practical application of all the book-learning,” Strayhorn says. “They get to try what works and what doesn’t.

“For the Northview students, they get the benefit of extra reading help for free.”

Career Prep

Aquinas education majors taking literacy classes are paired with students of their Northview and Wyoming adjunct instructors. Depending on the class they’re taking, Aquinas students meet with one or two students for 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours per session. As the Aquinas students advance in their program, they take on more responsibilities for setting up the sessions, which helps prepare them for student teaching.

On a recent afternoon, Aquinas junior Monica James plays a language board game with first-graders Camryn Vroma and Savy Compton. Each girl has a Bingo board of pictures and colored markers. James rolls a die onto a board of sound blends, such as “br” and “tw.” For “br,” Savy marks a picture of a brain; for “tw,’” both girls mark twins.

Tutor Elizabeth LaFave has fun talking with first-grader Vaida Sanchez about her mascot for the book “Curious Cat”

In another classroom, Jason Turner helps Tyler pronounce words in the book he’s reading, such as “coiled” and “cyclist.” Tyler likes learning new words, he says, adding, “Today I struggled with a book I brought to school, because it was a word I didn’t know.” He also likes playing games and discussing dinosaurs with Turner, who tutored him last year too.

A fifth-year elementary education student, Turner says the up-close work with Tyler helps prepare him for his teaching career. It helps him “think the way a third-grader thinks,” he says.

“We get told all the things we’re supposed to be doing, but you don’t learn until you start doing hands-on work with the kids,” Turner says. “It’s very valuable to be able to work with them and learn my craft.”

Besides, he adds, “I love it. They want to learn. They’re excited and it’s fun for me.”


Aquinas College Education Department

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers Rockford and Grand Rapids. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.


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