CLEVELAND — As children in Ohio are starting the process of moving back to in-person learning, hundreds of adult students are working towards their own education goals through Seeds of Literacy’s virtual classroom.
Staff members there said they desperately need more volunteer tutors to step up and help out.
Bill Cook, of Northfield, came to Seeds of Literacy back in 2013 looking for a new challenge.
“I've taught most of the areas, mostly now I teach math,” Cook said.
As a retired engineer, math is an area Cook knows well.
“Teaching math, in particular, it's helpful to use visuals,” Cook said“This is the first time that I’ve ever looked forward to Monday mornings."
When classes moved online to Zoom, Cook’s visuals went virtual.
“Some people use whiteboards. Some people use paper and markers. Others are able to use whiteboard software and electronic tablets. So I've done all of that,” Cook said. “We made YouTube videos of our lessons. And that was all effective, and now we're able to meet in Zoom, use Zoom breakout rooms for one-on-one lessons with students, so that's been very helpful.”
Seeds are looking for more tutors like Cook to teach the basic adult education seeds students need to get their GED or just to simply better themselves.
“It's been a whirlwind,” Todd Seabrook, the virtual site coordinator for Seeds of Literacy, said.
Seabrook said since July, 400 students have enrolled at Seeds, with 75 to 100 logging in per week. Some are from as far away as California. But the problem is they only have about 50 active tutors right now.
“50 tutors, even if they come multiple times, doesn't always cover it. In fact, it rarely does. The last thing we want to do is turn away a student because we don't have anyone there to work with them,” Seabrook said.
Seeds especially need tutors in reading and math where the need is huge. They don’t need any formal teaching training or experience.
“Our tutors are the key to our program. We cannot operate without them,” Seabrook said.
Seabrook said what matters is a tutor’s attitude.
“Overall thing that matters is that you're willing to help. And you yourself are also willing to learn. You don't need to be an expert. You don't need to know extreme high-level math or something. Most of our students aren't at that level,” Seabrook said. “Are you willing to learn a new skill yourself? Are you willing to be empathetic for our students? Are you just willing to show up for them? That's what matters most.”
Lenny Horowitz, of Cleveland Heights, has been a tutor since October 2019.
“Listen, this is awesome. I mean, this is the best thing I've done in retirement - that and pickleball,” Horowitz said.
Like Cook, Horowitz is a retired engineer and also teaches math at Seeds.
He does it for the students.
“Everybody wants to learn. Everybody has a goal. You know, they want to be able to read to their grandchild, or they want to be able to take the next step where they work,” Horowitz said. “Or they want a whole new career that they're going to pursue when they get their GED and they go off to college.”
And just over one year into his tenure as a tutor, he has a message for anyone out there who has a little patience and is willing to help those in need.
“Do it,” Horowitz said. “You're going to be nervous, of course, because you've never done this before. But you've got the staff. Seeds staff is incredible. They walk you through stuff, they make sure you understand what you need to do. If you think you might want to do it, try it. You're not obligated, you know, just do it.”
Anyone interested in tutoring must complete Seeds of Literacy’s volunteer application, attend a tutor training (offered every Monday, except holidays, at 11 a.m. EST via Zoom), and observe a tutoring session.
Seeds of Literacy is also accepting donations to support adult education and its impact on the community.
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.