KUTZTOWN, Pa –The Alaska Distance Intervention Online Program is helping education majors gain clinical experience through tutoring students in the Lake and Peninsula School District.
The tutoring program is coordinated by elementary education professor Kristen Bazley. The purpose of the program is to give education majors more field training opportunities and to provide more teaching resources for the students in the Alaskan school district. This is the second year of the program’s three year commitment.
Students interested in tutoring must submit an application which includes their class schedule. “Because Alaska is four hours behind us, we need to choose students who have time in their schedule between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week,” said Bazley. Students should have also taken either taken a class titled Teaching Diverse Learners at the Middle Level or the Children’s Literature for Pre-K to Four class before applying. These classes, according to Bazley, help prepare students to teach children who practice a different culture. The selected tutors are then assigned a student from Alaska who fits within their major area of study.
Education majors studying Pre-K to fourth grade would be pared with students on one of these grade levels. Since the Alaska school district allows students to learn at their own pace, grade levels exist, but are not as important as Pennsylvania’s grade level system. As a result, some tutors may have students who are 20 years old.
There are two grade divisions in the program currently. Bazley supervises tutors who are going for their certification in Pre-K to fourth grade. Christopher Weiler, a professor is collaborating with Bazley, supervises students certifying in fourth to eighth grades.
Tutoring sessions happen twice a week in assigned rooms in Beekey. According to Weiler, students must use Mac laptops and headphones that were paid for by the Alaskan school district. In total, there are nine Mac laptops and two IPads with six more laptops on the way. Tutors also use an online program called Blackboard Collaborate. “The program is a hybrid of Skype and Instant Messaging,” said Weiler. Tutors can upload PowerPoint presentations to Blackboard and are able to write on them in real time for their students to see. The online program also allows tutors to see and talk to their students.
“We try to keep a maximum number of four tutors in a room at once, but we have had up to six or seven students in one room,” said Weiler. Tutors are allowed to go into another room when six or seven are tutoring at the same time.
The program started when Bazley received a call from a Kutztown alumnus she had had in her classes. The alumnus was teaching in the Alaskan school district and needed help providing resources for her students. “She realized that her students could never complete reading assignments because they had no books of their own at home,” said Bazley.
Bazley then used her children’s literature class and created a pen pal email exchange with her students and the Alaskan students. Bazley assigned her students to find three books and create a game that would help teach their pen pals. The books and games were then sent to Alaska.After the success of Bazley’s class assignment, the superintendent of the College of Education decided to apply for a grant to kick start the tutoring program. The superintendent then asked Bazley if she would coordinate the program.
The first time the program was used, it ran for four weeks in the fall of 2012. In spring of 2013, the tutor program went all semester. This year, students had to give a full year commitment to the program. Although recruitment was slow during the four-week trial, the amount of tutor has almost doubled from around 15 to 27 tutors.
“Being able to tutor my student for a full year means I will be able to help him improve more in his subjects. That is truly rewarding,” said Kaitlyn Fleischut, a junior education major who has been a part of the tutoring program since the spring semester of 2013.