Some are middle and high school students. Some are young adults seeking a GED. Others are veterans preparing for college. The students in RSVP’s My Free Tutor program have one thing in common: They need help with math.
A cadre of around 50 RSVP volunteers who are comfortable explaining algebra — and also the importance of math in everyday life — provide that assistance, often from home using a whiteboard program on their computers.
The tutors must pass an open-book online math test and clear background checks. They then receive an hour of online training. Once ready, many choose from a list of students and veterans that includes the math topic and time of day when they need to be tutored.
What It’s Like
“The tutors select the students they want to help,” said My Free Tutor coordinator Anabella Tracy. “They can fit their commitment to their schedules and interests.”
“I tutor my students once a week for an hour,” said retired engineer Steve Glusman, who designed helicopters for Boeing. “But when you finish, you finish. Unless you’re in the middle of something, the attention span of a younger student isn’t 45 minutes.” Glusman tutors in the late afternoon. “In the mornings I like to play golf or fish,” he said.
Nick Truncellito has a doctorate in engineering and has taught math and science for more than 40 years. “You have to adjust to different levels of understanding,” he said. “Some students, especially in middle school, don’t have a good grasp of the fundamentals. You have to start with basic principles and teach in a simple way. I make sure the student can explain a concept back to me before moving ahead.”
Truncellito has also worked with veterans. “It’s easier because we can communicate by cell phones or even email if there is an issue accessing a computer. When a veteran places his life on the line for our country, this is the least I can do for him.”
Most, but not all the volunteers tutor from home. Retired insurance consultant Sandy Kuritzky travels to Norristown once a week to spend three hours tutoring students in their teens to age 24 who are seeking a GED in the MontcoWorks NOW program.
“I work with a professional tutor who, with pre-testing and the students’ self-reporting, determines areas where the students need additional support. It takes tremendous motivation to realize that if you want more out of life, you need a better education.”
Does It Work?
A 2017 study of My Free Tutor students found that 60 percent had moderate to significant improvement in their homework and test scores. Class participation improved for 80 percent of students.
‘This is a chance to make a significant impact in someone’s life,” said Tracy. “It helps to open doors to opportunities that just aren’t available without this knowledge.”
From a volunteer’s perspective, “it’s the perfect opportunity for someone who has a passion for their former career,” said Kuritzky. “If you're not passionate about what you’re doing, find something else to do!”
“It’s important to give back,” observed Truncellito. “I’ve been blessed with many mentors and great teachers. Students who want the help and are willing to work do very well. If they don’t put forth the effort they should, I try to be as supportive as possible and help them understand how important their education is no matter what career they choose.”
“My desire is to give back,” Glusman also said. “Math has been important to me and I’m glad to help people who need help.”
My Free Tutor’s website, myfreetutor.org, provides detailed information about the program, including video examples of tutoring sessions, a practice whiteboard and the entire algebra 1 test that potential volunteers must pass.
The 25-question test is open book. Test-takers must answer at least 20 questions correctly to pass. After the questions, an appendix lists resources for each question, sometimes with a video. That enables would-be volunteers to brush up on types of problems that they might have forgotten how to solve.
Volunteers must pass Pennsylvania criminal and child abuse screenings, which can be completed online. They must also undergo an FBI fingerprint check, which requires going to one of several area sites. All background checks are paid by RSVP. Most RSVP programs that involve work with minors or seniors require similar screening.
To discuss or apply for the program contact RSVP’s volunteer coordinator at 834-1040, ext. 123 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about additional RSVP programs, visit https://www.rsvpmc.org/.