Student Tutor Spotlight: Maya Elysse, Sean Mason, and Aurora Soliz

One-on-one instruction is the best way to guarantee that struggling students receive the individualized attention they need in order to achieve at higher levels. But sometimes working two-on-one can also work wonders. This season, rather than focusing on a single student and tutor pair, we look at the work of tutor Aurora Soliz and the two students she works with, Maya Elysse and Sean Mason, both of whom have advanced by leaps and bounds in tutorial with Tutors for All.

Maya Elysse and Sean Mason are both in the seventh grade at Prospect Hill Academy (PHA), a public charter school in Cambridge’s Area 4 neighborhood. Before coming to Math tutorial, they were performing at some of the lowest levels of their grade. This is no longer the case. Since the beginning of the semester, Maya and Sean have improved by 18% and 35%, respectively, between their first and third Show What You Know evaluation tests. Compared to their peers, Maya has made the 4th greatest improvement, and Sean has made the most improvement out of any student in tutorial at PHA. To add to this accomplishment, both Sean and Maya have perfect attendance records.

Maya and Sean both receive instruction in basic math from their hard-working tutor, Ms. Aurora Soliz. Ms. Soliz began serving with Tutors for All last fall at the Tobin school in Roxbury. Now she works as a Lead Tutor at Prospect Hill and at Smith Leadership Academy (SLA) while pursuing her B.A. in Biology and her M.A. in Education at Simmons College. Her goal is to become a high school Biology teacher – although she is considering teaching at the middle school level since having worked with Sean and Maya. We asked Ms. Soliz about working with two students as opposed to just one. “Sean and Maya are fun kids,” she says. “It is harder working with two students at a time, but Maya and Sean work well together. They are really funny.” Ms. Soliz says the most important thing her students have taught her is not to take basic skills for granted. “They have a hard time doing mental math,” she explains. “I have to find methods to teach what is familiar to me and identify strategies that help them.”

Ms. Soliz takes a “no-excuses” attitude toward Maya’s and Sean’s growth. “They are a lot cleverer than they give themselves credit for,” she says. She explains that when presented with a challenge, they often say they cannot meet it. “Then I show them their past work, which proves that they can master new material. I get them to stop second-guessing themselves.” Maya and Sean had to get used to this approach. Maya started attending tutorial in the fall, and when she began working with Ms. Soliz this spring, she found her, “kind of mean.” “Then I got to know her,” says Maya. “She tells me, ‘You can do it! You don’t need a calculator! Take your time; you can get the answer right.’” Sean, who began tutorial this semester, had similar worries, but he has grown fond of his tutor: “She’s flexible, understanding.”

Thanks to Ms. Soliz’s guidance and Maya’s and Sean’s hard work, the two students are closer to achieving their personal goals. When asked what his plans for the future are, Sean says he wants to own run his own business. “I want to own a graffiti store with a room where people can just do art all day.” Maya is shyer at first. When asked what she wants to do, her face lights up. “I want to be a singer,” she says. Then she pauses. “And a lawyer. My dad says I need a backup career.” When prompted to explain her choice, Maya goes on to say that she is also open to becoming a pediatrician. “My friends say I should be a doctor. Little kids love me.”

Congratulations to Maya, Sean, and Ms. Soliz on their achievements this semester!

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