This new year at Tutors for All has brought some terrific new staff, including our newest Program Managers, Ben Cottingham and Irina Uk! We recently had the opportunity to chat with Ben and Irina about their backgrounds, what brought them to T4A, and what they have taken away from their work so far.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Ben: I am a Program Manager for Boston Green Academy and Boston International Newcomers Academy. Before coming across Tutors for All, I was a Curriculum Writer for the Oklahoma State Department of Education and served as a Corps Member for Teach for America in Oklahoma City. I graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, near my hometown of Hendersonville, NC. When I have free time, I enjoy activities such as traveling, mountain biking, snowboarding, and playing soccer.
Irina: I am the Program Manager at the Tobin School. Prior to working at Tutors for All, I taught high school mathematics and led a Precalculus course team in a Chicago charter school. I received my Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Technology, Innovation and Education in 2013. After graduating, I explored my interest in leveraging technology to improve education by designing learning technologies for companies such as HarvardX, CAST, IDC Herziliya’s Media Innovation Lab, Scholastic and Knewton. Now, I enjoy working in both education leadership and access roles, as well as designing code education programs. Besides managing a program at Tutors for All, I lead a Coding Club for kids through the Lesley STEAM Lab. In my free time, I enjoy creating digital art, and practicing martial arts and yoga.
2. What drew you to Tutors for All?
Ben: In my experience as an educator, I saw the transformative power tutorials and remediation had on student achievement. However, many educators are already overburdened with their multitude of other responsibilities and cannot successfully work one-on-one with students. Tutors for All ensures that high need students receive the additional attention they need to be successful, enabling teachers to focus on developing quality whole class instruction.
Irina: I liked the mission of Tutors for All. I wanted to help others inspire kids to love learning and to provide them with the tools they would not otherwise have access to.
3. What is the most rewarding part about working for T4A? What have you learned so far?
Ben: The most rewarding part is certainly watching the students grow and succeed. The growth of tutors as young professionals is remarkable as well. Their enthusiasm to become a part of the broader education movement is refreshing and renews our drive to continue the work we do at Tutors for All.
Irina: I love sharing ideas with other Program Managers- we learn from each other. I also love seeing tutors when they recognise what a large difference they have made in someone’s life.
4. What are you most looking forward to in your work with T4A in 2017?
Ben: I’m extremely excited to begin work as Program Manager at Codman Academy. The school has a reputation for providing exemplary educational opportunities and is currently our longest running program and I’m eager to begin working with their fantastic students and staff.
Irina: I am looking forward to growing the Tobin program. I know my team has the potential to effect more change.
5. What has been your most memorable T4A experience so far?
Ben: At Boston International Newcomers Academy, many students are recent arrivals to the US and we were fortunate to have an alum from last year volunteer with us as a tutor. Seeing the impact she has coming back to help other students has been very impactful to students, teachers, and our program. Hopefully, she will inspire others to take up the same service in future years.
Irina: My most memorable experience was when a student who was apathetic to the program at the beginning said, “My tutor makes me smile.” And another said, “I low-key like tutors.” I thought to myself, what a huge difference we are making.
6. What are your goals for the future?
Ben: My immediate future plans involve attending one of several graduate programs in education leadership beginning in fall 2017. Ultimately, I would like to develop policy for the federal department of education or hold public office.
Irina: I want to continue to improve the ongoing PD program for the tutors, and also grow the Tobin program.
7. Did you make any new years resolutions? How are they going?
Ben: I want to improve my Spanish skills to where I can easily carry a conversation with native speakers. It’s going well so far, I’ve practiced for an hour each day with either a language learning software or a friend.
Irina: Several years ago, I made a resolution not to make resolutions. I have weekly goals that I try to meet. I think change happens in small increments. I try to focus on each day and make it as good as it could be.