Programs show that good tutors need not be teachers first



Nina Iraggi, a tutor with Literacy Council Gulf Coast, left, with one of her students.

Nina Iraggi, a tutor with Literacy Council Gulf Coast, left, with one of her students.

Sandra Cranshaw is enjoying her third year as a tutor for Literacy Volunteers of Collier County, working with both families and individual adults.

“This is a win for everybody involved, and I’m loving it,” she said.

For Cranshaw, tutoring fills a gap that arose in her life after retiring from a long career as an educator in Broward County.

She began working with groups of eight parents at a time. “Their primary goal is to better connect with their young children by reading to them in English,” she said.

One student’s child is now in first grade. “She is so proud and grateful because her daughter’s academic skills are off the charts,” Cranshaw said.

“At our LVCC office, potential adult students come to seek help with literacy almost every day,” said Executive Director Chris Nind. “We presently have about 30 adults waiting to receive tutoring.”

“We also need tutors for families and children, especially during the school year,” he said.

Tutor Sandra Cranshaw receives flowers from her PreK student and mother, who is also a student.

Tutor Sandra Cranshaw receives flowers from her PreK student and mother, who is also a student.

LVCC Ambassador Kathy Frank works with new students, tutors, and staff. “To be a good tutor, you need a clear sense of motivation,” she said. “You don’t need to be a former schoolteacher. Just making the commitment to work with your students will help you succeed.”

In Bonita Springs, David Black tutors first- through fifth-graders in reading, math and spelling, through New Horizons of Southwest Florida.

“I currently have the same kids as last year, and their improvement has been remarkable,” he said. “Some of them went to reading camp this past summer.”

Black has also seen improvement in his students’ social interaction skills. “We’re not only tutoring; we’re mentoring,” he said. “I like seeing kids develop confidence in communicating with others.”

Black is hoping more men will get involved in tutoring. “Young boys need to feel supported by strong adult males, who can be good role models,” he said.

David Black tutors first through fifth graders in the New Horizons program.

David Black tutors first through fifth graders in the New Horizons program.

Vicki Burton also volunteers with New Horizons, at an after-school program for kinder­garten through fifth-grade students.

Most of her students have loving parents who work hard, often at low-paying jobs, and may not be available to help them with their homework.

She often gets hugs, smiles, and appreciation from the children. “I think some of them see me as a grandmotherly presence,” she said.

Nina Iraggi has volunteered at Literacy Council Gulf Coast for the past seven years.

“I work with adults, ages 18 to 80,” she said. “Some have now become citizens, and one is now going for his GED.”

“Conversational skills are really important for them, and we often focus on idioms, such as ‘a fish out of water,’ or ‘bite the bullet,’” Iraggi said. “Now they’ll be ready if these phrases pop up in a conversation at work, or wherever.”

“The students are so appreciative & humble. I’ve made some lasting friendships through volunteer tutoring,” Iraggi said.

When Black worked for the federal government as a senior executive, he often traveled overseas. “I noticed in some countries there are fewer educational opportunities, compared with what we have in the U.S. I think we take that for granted sometimes,” he said.

“We have an immense power to transform a child through education, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Black said.

Tutoring Agencies

Literacy Council Gulf Coast is committed to improving English language reading and writing skills of adults and children in Southwest Florida. Go to www.LiteracyGulfCoast.org or call 239-676-5202.

Literacy Volunteers of Collier County is an accredited affiliate of ProLiteracy America, and offers tutoring for students of all ages. Go to www.collierliteracyvolunteers.org or call 239-262-4448.

New Horizons of Southwest Florida reaches hundreds of children each week with free after-school tutoring. Go to www.NewHorizonsofswfl.org, or call 239-948-4146.