What David Wilson and Jackie Eckholm love about Cluster Tutoring is the fact that they learn as much as their students.
“It’s amazing how much you learn at tutoring, like when you’re helping your student find information when they’re writing a paper,” said David, who has tutored for nine years. “It’s one of my favorite parts of tutoring.”
Jackie, a seven-year veteran of the program, agreed. “To share the tutoring experience is a wonderful way to bond with a young person and learn together. It’s fun to challenge yourself to learn something new.”
David started tutoring when he found an opportunity to “do the right thing,” as he put it. He’s been tutoring his current student, Kaleb, since Kaleb was in 5th grade, and Kaleb is now a freshman in high school.
“Kaleb’s a bright and enthusiastic kid,” David said. “My experience tutoring is as much about mentoring as it is about tutoring. I try to instill a sense of responsibility and teach them to keep your mind on what you’re trying to do.” David said he uses his own real-world experiences as examples of understanding change and context, as Kaleb is working on making the transition from middle school to high school.
Kaleb is David’s fourth student. A past student, Willie, had challenges with phonics, and the pair spent a lot of time working on reading. Now Willie is graduating from Columbia College. “It’s really gratifying that the stuff we did back then paid off,” David said.
“Where we make the biggest difference is giving give them a foundation in learning. It’s piling success after success.”
David had such a positive experience at Cluster that his wife, Jackie, couldn’t help but want to join him. “He’d get home after tutoring all excited. I saw how much fun he was having, so I figured that I would try it, too. I immediately loved it. It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be.”
Jackie is on her third student, Taliya, whom she started with in 5th grade and who is now a sophomore in high school.
“When we first started, she was having a difficult time sounding out words,” Jackie said. “It was very frustrating for her, so she didn’t like reading. She would know what a word meant from context, but she couldn’t sound it out and pronounce it.”
Now Taliya has gone from a student who didn’t like to read at all to one who likes to read books outside the classroom. “Now that she’s in high school, her favorite subject is English, and she’s reading wonderful books. That’s my favorite part of tutoring — discussing books with her.”
Both Kaleb and Taliya want to go to college, and David and Jackie impress the need to keep their grades up. “What they need to do now is to prepare themselves for what’s down the road,” David said.
David said he loves listening to the questions the students ask at tutoring. “Younger kids ask really good, conceptual questions,” he said. Jackie said her reward was to “listen to how they see the world.”
David and Jackie are Chicago Cubs fans, as evidenced by the Cubs gear in their picture. So what do David and Jackie like better? Cluster Tutoring or the Cubs?
“Depends on the game,” David said.