Midd Kids tutoring college staff children remotely


A NEARLY ABANDONED campus back in March when the college first suspended in-person classes. Independent file photo/John S. McCright

MIDDLEBURY — A far-flung network of Middlebury College student volunteers has emerged during the coronavirus pandemic to help staff and faculty children with their remote-learning studies.

It all started on April 3, when the college Staff Council posted a message on the “Middlebury Staff Solidarity” Facebook page. By that time Vermont public school buildings had been closed for almost three weeks, to slow the spread of COVID-19, and local students and their families were struggling to adjust to remote learning programs.

“Staff Council has heard from many staff that one of the needs seems to be homeschooling help,” the Facebook post said. “Any ideas appreciated — maybe students could Zoom tutor?”

Senior Ami Furgang and their fellow organizers took up the challenge, and within a week Middlebury students were signing up to be remote tutors, said classmate and fellow organizer Tara Santi, who spoke with the Independent by phone from her home in Golden, Colo.

Santi marveled at how eager her classmates were to help out.

“The response was massive,” she said.

More than 100 Middlebury College students signed up to tutor staff and faculty children.

“One of the most hopeful and exciting parts of this is the wide range of students who signed up,” Santi said. “Our tutors bring all kinds of expertise — languages, digital media, math and science.”

During Addison County’s spring break, the tutoring network surveyed staff and faculty on their children’s needs, then held a “how-to-tutor” session that they organized themselves.

“The experienced tutors shared their knowledge with the people who’ve never tutored before and who might have been feeling a little nervous,” Santi said. “It was a really fun experience.”

Tutoring started in earnest after spring break.

Currently, volunteers are tutoring roughly 20 local students, Santi said, but the tutoring network is hoping to expand their services to the community at large.

Tutors are assigned based on their strengths and the needs of the students.

“When we make a match we email the tutor and the student at the same time and suggest a (remote) ‘meet-and-greet,’” Santi said. “Then it’s up to the tutor, the student and the parents take it from there. We’re hoping the tutors and families build relationships.”

The tutoring mostly happens over Zoom, but it’s up to the tutors and families to figure that out, she added.

It seems to be going well.

“The tutors have been really excited and the families have been appreciative,” Santi said.

And the program has offered another opportunity for Middlebury College students to show solidarity with staff.

“It’s important to recognize the struggles some of the staff have, especially in such uncertain times,” she said.

Spring 2020 is almost over for Middlebury College students, but volunteer tutors will be helping staff and faculty kids right up until the end of the Addison County school year, which goes through mid-June.

And beyond?

“There has definitely been some interest in continuing the program next fall,” Santi said.

Middlebury College Staff Council President Tim Parsons said he was struck by the students’ generosity.

“Here are a bunch of students whose lives just got totally upended, making plans to go back home, figure out online classes, canceled spring break plans, and what’s their first thought? How can we help staff at Middlebury,” Parsons said in an email. “We can’t even begin to express how touching staff found this.”

Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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