Tutors and students are finding all kinds of new ways to connect remotely this fall. But tutor Maggie Boyaris and her student, Kevin, seem to have them all beat — they’ve met four times each week since Cluster Tutoring started in September.
Maggie and Kevin started tutoring together in the summer of 2018, just after Kevin finished 3rd grade. The two were paired through the Mathnasium in Oak Park for special math tutoring. While Maggie had tutored privately before, this chance to volunteer was something new. She joined Cluster that fall to keep working with Kevin, who is now a 6th grader at Moving Everest Junior High Charter School. This is the third year the two have worked together.
The two have developed their own remote tutoring routine. They meet over Zoom at 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday to work on homework. The goal is to be finished by 6 p.m. “Tutoring lasts until I’m done with all my homework or until I understand my work,” Kevin said.
“There have been a few days when I was not available,” Maggie said, “and there has been a day or two where Kevin finished his homework during class and we didn’t need to meet.” When Kevin wasn’t able to finish homework during their tutoring sessions, the two met on Friday afternoon to get everything done before the weekend.
Kevin and Maggie work on all subjects, “particularly this year with virtual learning and more regularly assigned homework,” Maggie said. But they have the most fun working on math, “where Kevin has made leaps and bounds of improvements.” They started with basic addition and subtraction, and “these days he is showing me how to multiply fractions.” The two also are working on solving algebraic equations.
But reading is important, too: They’ve tacked James and the Giant Peach and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Shel Silverstein poetry is a favorite.
“I think one of Kevin’s greatest strengths is his ability to keep trying and to keep putting in the effort when things are hard. He continually works so hard to try his best. As much as I show up to help him, he has always shown up to put in the effort, and I am always so impressed.”
“I love working with Maggie,” Kevin said, who added that she helps with whatever subject he has problems with. “She helps me understand my work, and makes me feel comfortable when I’m wrong.”
His tutor agrees. “I enjoy seeing Kevin every time!” Maggie said. “We try to smile and have some fun with whatever we are doing.”
Maggie also credits Kevin’s parents for his success. She had a Zoom call with the family in September to evaluate how the school year was going, and his parents sent Maggie links so that she could access Kevin’s classes and teachers. “It’s been a real team effort,” Maggie said.
Maggie is currently taking time off from working due to risks from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made this extra amount of tutoring possible. “But tutoring has also been a silver lining in this crazy time for me. It has been very rewarding for me to be able to provide Kevin with this extra support.”
Maggie said Kevin has been a “rock star” at adapting to remote learning. “He’s better than I am at the ins and outs of screen-sharing on Zoom so that we can work on homework together.”
After their first summer tutoring together, Kevin wanted to find a special way to thank Maggie with a gift. His mother, Yolanda, told him that a gift “has to be about that person. I told my mom, ‘I think she is a super teacher.’ My mom made her a Super Teacher shirt like the hero Superman!”
Kevin’s parents agree. “We really appreciate Cluster for bringing Ms. Maggie into our and Kevin’s world,” Yolanda said. “She teaches him with patience and grace. She’s always cheering him on and reminds him to believe in himself.”