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Tutor Spotlight – Tom Scholten

March 26, 2021

Tom Scholten is in his third year as a Heart tutor, most recently at Pineville Elementary, and took some time to share his experience with us!

Q: How did you get involved with Heart Tutoring?

I retired as an engineer about 3 years ago and was looking for math tutoring opportunities. Originally, I was looking for opportunities to tutor middle schoolers because I just had this idea that all students really need algebra to be successful. I didn’t even recognize that waiting until middle school is too late. I came across Heart Tutoring in my search and at first thought “Really? Elementary school?” But then I realized that’s where the need is. If students don’t have the basics of math, they will struggle later on when they get to algebra and other more difficult concepts.

I thought, “I’m an engineer and math is easy for me. I was also teaching every day at my job trying to set expectations, making sure employees know our company goals and how to achieve them.” It’s the same concept but adjusted for elementary school, so I decided to give it a try.

Q: How has the Program Coordinator played a role in your tutoring experience?

One of my students struggled with attention span and I really have to work to keep him focused on the lesson. The Program Coordinator has been really great at helping with techniques to keep the student focused. They have the background and experience to help keep students on track and keep things running smoothly.

Q: Outside of math, what do you talk about with your student(s)?

Two boys I tutor love comic books and I have a son who enjoyed comics as well. I’ll text or call my son to ask questions the students have, like, “How did Flash get his superpowers?” Then I’ll go back the next week and talk about it with the students. And that’s cool because it’s another motivator for them; I can say “Hey, you had a good day today! I’ll make sure I have that answer for you next week.” It helps keep them focused. Whatever they’re interested in, that’s what I care about that day.

Q: Outside of math, how have you seen your students grow/change/learn/develop?

To see how my students came into this school year compared to how they left last year. They change so quickly. One of my students has made great strides. He wasn’t too far away from his grade level, he just needed a little extra help. He went through one of the notebooks in 2 or 3 weeks. Once he saw the patterns, it clicked for him and he was good to go!

Q: Describe an “a-ha” moment with one of your students.

One of my students, early in the 1st semester, was present during sessions but kind of being pulled along. Then one day she showed up and was like “Let’s do this!” She was interested and excited and was the one leading the way, instead of having to be pulled through it. And that’s fun. I don’t know if it was her own confidence or something that happened in her classroom, but something clicked for her. You nurture them through the concepts step by step, and all of a sudden they’re ready to go. Now she asks “What page are we on?” And opens the lesson to get started.

Q: What is your favorite or the most rewarding part of being a tutor?

Seeing the kids be successful. The setup of Heart isn’t just about doing the math, it’s also about being confident. It’s rewarding to see that confidence when they realize “This is something I can do, I just need to work on it a little bit.”

Q: How does your tutor experience impact other parts of your life?

Now that I’m retired I’m looking at how I’m donating my time. After working with my students each week and talking with my own kids and watching them do their college work, I really think that it’s important to get the community to realize we need to invest in K-5. If you get the fundamentals and the habits, the rest will come.

Q: What would you say to someone who says…

I am no good at math…

I’d come at it from 2 sides – one is half of what Heart is looking for is building student confidence. Yes we’re working on math, but it’s really about confidence in school. If you feel more confident in one area, that spreads. Also it’s elementary math, it’s not difficult, we will support you and provide you with resources.

I am no good with kids…

The kids are just adorable. They are so kind and so polite, and so eager to learn and enjoy being there with you. They like seeing you every week, it becomes a part of their weekly routine… in some ways it might even be a highlight of their week.

I don’t have time in my schedule…

You do. You manage your time all the time. What’s in your schedule that is getting in the way of tutoring? If you want to, you can almost always figure out a way. It’s about making it a priority.

Q: Anything else you want the world to know about Heart?

The program is really well done in terms of the way that you work through the scheduling, you have someone supporting the tutors in every session, and the activities and program are great from an educational point of view.

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