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February 2, 2021

Returning Tutor Spotlight: Ken Seidel

By Brenna Peterson, external relations associate, Reading Partners Tulsa

We’re so grateful for the more than 200 returning tutors who have stuck with us as we adapted to distance learning and launched our brand new virtual platform Reading Partners Connects. According to our 2020-21 Mid-Year Survey; 95% of tutors are satisfied with their experience using Reading Partners Connects.

When I heard that one of our longtime tutors, Ken Seidel, had purchased a computer just so he could continue serving students as a Reading Partners volunteer, I knew I had to learn more. I sat down with him to discover why he says he “went for it big time” with Reading Partners Connects.

Brenna Peterson: What was your first reaction when you heard Reading Partners was going virtual?
Ken Seidel: I was discouraged when the pandemic temporarily put tutoring on hold. So, when Reading Partners Connects came along, I just went for it big time!

BP:  How did you originally become involved with Reading Partners?
KS: I had retired back in 2010 and I got amazingly bored! I kept searching for nonprofit volunteer opportunities within a reasonable distance of my community. I tried a whole bunch of them and eventually, I found out what I was good at and what I wasn’t. Reading Partners was one of the things I was good at!

BP: Why do you love Reading Partners Connects? ken seidel
KS: I really enjoy Reading Partners Connects. I think it is a very valuable tool. I love the concept of being able to remotely connect and be able to go face-to-face with a student — that is extremely rewarding!

BP: What would you say to someone who is hesitant about Reading Partners Connects?
KS: I would say, look at it as an adventure! This is a journey where you need to respect mistakes and know that the children are so forgiving. They’re just excited to participate! To them, the Zoom technology is like listening to the radio! They simply turn it on and do it! There’s no hesitancy on their part. The hesitancy that others feel is natural. If they remember how difficult it was to learn how to drive… we didn’t realize how easy it was to do until we did it! The same can be said about using these wonderful systems like Zoom!

At first, you feel awkward, uncomfortable, and need guidance. But, the kids just laugh — to them, it’s just life and not a big deal! To you, self-critical as we all are, we want to be perfect the first time. Perfection doesn’t exist in the real world! Try to embrace the joy of learning something new. 

BP: What are some of the benefits of Reading Partners Connects?
KS: I don’t find tutoring virtually through Reading Partners Connects intimidating at all. Instead, I see a wonderful future for it because it has so many benefits! For example, I don’t have to drive from point A to point B. I don’t have to find parking or worry about traffic, etc. Not to mention, Reading Partners Connects is extremely user-friendly!

BP: How has your perspective or perceived impact as a reading partner changed now that you’re tutoring through our virtual platform, Reading Partners Connects?
KS: My experience with Reading Partners Connects has been positive! Because I am communicating with someone remotely, the virtual platform has encouraged me to become more animated! I’ve become more attune to my student’s facial expressions and gestures.

BP: Why did you choose to become a reading partner?
KS: I didn’t learn how to read until 7th grade, which was a heavy emotional burden. As a young male in middle school, I have several memories that are mini horror stories of how painful, debilitating, and uncomfortable it was to not know how to read.

BP: What fuels your passion for empowering young students to develop a love of reading?
KS: I consider myself a rescued reader. I had an unsuccessful childhood but an amazingly successful adulthood. I am extremely fortunate that I was able to overcome my reading difficulties and now I read all the time. Reading is such a prominent and important part of my life.

Especially in my retirement, I feel like I can make a contribution to my community and in the life of a young person. That is a wonderful feeling that I get every time I interact with a student!

BP: What’s your strategy when it comes to working with students?
KS: When I approach a Reading Partners student, empathy is the biggest thing on my agenda. It is so important to relate to a student. Being able to say, “Hey, there is a future in this, and reading can be a very important part of your future that can bring joy and is a great reward.” Relating to children is just a sheer joy for me! I very much look forward to every session. Being able to relate one-to-one and sense their joy, excitement, and spontaneity is pure joy!

BP: What do you love about Reading Partners?
KS: One of the things I love about Reading Partners is the curriculum. It’s exquisite! I love the concept of the scripted presentation style and knowing exactly what material I’m going to cover. I gain a level of confidence with that, and that still holds true for Reading Partners Connects.

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