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February 19, 2015

Aaliyiah & Theresa's Story

An opportunity to succeed

When Aaliyiah arrived in her fifth-grade classroom at Berkley Maynard Academy in Oakland, “She wouldn’t raise her hand to participate in class. She was introverted, and she wasn’t doing her homework at all,” says her teacher, Natalie Baird.

Then Aaliyiah started working with “Miss Theresa,” a working professional in her 30s who is also a student pursuing her college degree for the first time. Every Tuesday and Thursday between her work and classes, Theresa arrived at the Berkeley Maynard reading center and diligently worked with Aaliyiah. Aaliyiah was shy and lacked motivation. Theresa, drawing on the nurturing part of herself she developed growing up with many siblings, demonstrated her care and belief in Aaliyiah’s potential.

“Sometimes Theresa was strict with her high expectations and other times she was very playful,” observed Reading Partners VP of Operations Lilly Green. “But the most important thing for Aaliyiah was having the consistency of Theresa showing up day after day no matter what.” By the end of the year, Aaliyiah became increasingly confident with tackling new, complex words like “university” and grasping comprehension concepts like understanding the author’s message. Aaliyiah’s teacher is pleased with the strategies Aaliyiah has learned and the relationship she has built with her tutor. “Aaliyiah looks at a word and knows how to break it down,” she says. Aaliyiah’s confidence and performance have turned around. “She raises her hand in class and turns in her homework,” says Natalie.

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