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February 18, 2021

Virtual tutoring offers a COVID-safe and supportive way to give back

With the virtual world feeling so unfamiliar to so many, navigating the unique expectations of COVID-safe online volunteering can be a daunting task. That’s why it’s been inspiring to see many of our former in-person volunteers meet this new challenge head-on, no matter their comfort (or discomfort) with technology. 

An in-person volunteer tutor turned Los Angeles Reading Partners Connects tutor, Nancy Carlson reflects on the differences between being face-to-face with students and building relationships virtually. 

“I was comfortable with and enjoyed the in-person interaction with the students,” Nancy shares. “Being on their campus and having a chance to walk with the student, chat, and work side-by side gave me so much insight into their world and interests. I confess I was concerned about losing the very personal interaction from which both student and tutor gained so much when I transitioned to an on-screen only environment.”

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When asked to join Reading Partners as a COVID-safe online volunteer tutor in the fall of 2020, Nancy first thought of the students she’d worked with through the years. 

“I love tutoring these young students and could not imagine losing the opportunity to continue this enriching experience just because of a new challenge that seemed somewhat intimidating — new technology. says Nancy. “If I expected my students to learn why ‘thumb’ has a silent ‘b’ on the end or that ‘soar’ and ‘sore’ sound the same, but are not the same in any other way, surely I should step up and be tutored in something new myself. I swallowed my pride and dove into the ‘screen’ world I had been avoiding.”

As she began her online venture into Reading Partners Connects, Nancy was happily surprised by the virtual, COVID-safe space Reading Partners had created. 

“When I saw the material, detail and thoughtfulness of the Reading Partners Connects approach, I was hooked,” says Nancy. “I could only imagine the passion, effort, energy, and ‘smarts’ of the Reading Partners team putting this together, and it propelled me forward. Yes, I struggled initially and still find new ways to create ‘glitches’ but the staff is there continuously to support and encourage.” 

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Nancy now volunteers with Reading Partners four days a week via Zoom. With the support of her wonderful site coordinator, Davis, she delivers high quality, personalized instruction to her students. 

“This works, it actually works!” Nancy exclaims. “I still feel I am able to contribute to young, eager minds and have learned a great deal myself in the process.”

When asked what she would say to anyone who is hesitant to sign up for Reading Partners Connects, Nancy replied: “Do not be intimidated by this new environment; if you, like me, are a novice, the support provided is exemplary. Know that you actually can develop a student/tutor relationship in this environment that is enriching and satisfying and gets results.” 

There is one particular aspect of the classroom setting that Nancy is grateful to avoid:  “No tiny chairs!”

Thank you, Nancy, for your exemplary volunteerism and commitment to your students!

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