If tutor Maggie Farren looks more like one of the Cluster Tutoring students than a tutor, there’s a good reason for that. Maggie is only 17 and a junior at Oak Park River Forest High School.
But Maggie, who has three younger siblings, realized that she loves to work with younger kids. So last year, she started working with kindergartner Nickeyah, and they have gone full steam ahead in reading.
Now in 1st grade, Nickeyah started out learning the alphabet and writing her letters. The pair kept a notebook throughout the year to measure her progress. “Now, when we look back, we see how far she’s come,” Maggie said. “We’re reading 3rd-grade-level books now.
“When we go to pick out a book, she just picks ones that look interesting. She doesn’t care how long it is,” she added.
Maggie started tutoring when her mother saw a notice in the local paper that tutors were needed. “I wasn’t doing much at the time. I went to the orientation, and I realized that I must have been the youngest person by about 25 years.”
She was assigned to Nickeyah, “who is absolutely amazing,” and that made Maggie a tutoring convert. “She’s made me stick with it. She’s totally enthusiastic. I love that about her.”
While much of their tutoring time is spent on reading, they’re focusing on punctuation and reading out loud “so it’s not a monotone,” Maggie said. They also work on addition and subtraction.
Maggie said she appreciates the resources in the tutoring library. “The Ready Readers program has really helped,” she said. “We’re able to assess what books she should be reading. All the info the program provides is incredible.”
Maggie has other activities that keep her busy. At school, she participates in the Spoken Word Club, doing poetry slams. She teaches gymnastics to young children. “I’m also getting certified to be a yoga teacher,” she said.
She shares her tutoring experiences with her friends at school. “Most of them say, ‘Oh, that’s so cool. Tell me more about it.’ When Nickeyah gets a good report card, I tell everyone. I’m so proud of her.
“I think a lot of my friends would be good tutors. It’s valuable to have teenagers doing tutoring. There’s more understanding of what kids are doing in school,” since the age difference isn’t that great.
The junior year of high school can be stressful, especially with a full academic load that includes some Advanced Placement classes. Maggie said she hasn’t narrowed down what she might want to study in college, but she’s thinking of computer science or web design. She says she wants to be one of the “women in the tech world.”
Maggie has one more year before college, but she’s “definitely” tutoring next year. “I couldn’t imagine stopping working with Nickeyah now. I feel kind of like a mom to her.”
“Tutoring is like a two-way street,” Maggie said. “I teach Nickeyah, but she’s living a life that I can’t imagine. I learn as much from her as she learns from me.”