When Leonid Zaretskiy retired after 20 years of doing research in a chemical lab, he knew he wanted to find an activity to help people. That desire to help led him to Cluster Tutoring.
Leonid moved to the U.S. from Belarus 25 years ago, and he is a native Russian speaker. But his 6th-grade student, Dillon H., has what Leonid described as “very good communication skills,” so they have no problems speaking and working together.
This is Leonid’s first year at Cluster, although it’s not his first time tutoring. Since his retirement, he first tutored adults from Austin to help prepare them for the GED exam. But he said he enjoys working one-to-one with Dillon.
At most tutoring sessions, Leonid and Dillon work on homework. Dillon reads a lot at what Leonid called “good reading levels.”
But Leonid always stresses math skills, too. “I want him to have a good, basic knowledge of math,” he said. “I want him to be confident in the basics,” whether that’s work on fractions, multiplication, or other areas.
Leonid has a master’s degree in chemical engineering and a PhD in materials science. Dillon has expressed an interest in chemistry, so Leonid has brought science books and samples from work to share. But the interests don’t stop there.
“I’m trying to get him interested in classical music,” Leonid said. “Something like Mozart, which he could play on his computer.”
Leonid also taught Dillon to play checkers, which is one of their most fun shared experiences for the last 15 minutes of the tutoring session — and something Dillon looks forward to each week. “He always checks the clock as it gets toward the end so we can play checkers,” Leonid said.
Playing checkers is more than just a game, though. “I want to teach him how to think, how to plan ahead in his moves,” Leonid said. “That same approach works for many things in life.”
Leonid said he has appreciated having online links to Dillon’s school to check his homework assignments and his grades. Dillon has been a good student, and Leonid said the greatest gift will be for Dillon to keep getting good grades. “As long as he’s successful, he’ll get better grades. We’re working on building confidence.”