Category Archives: Tutors for All Blog: One Student At a Time

One Student At a Time

Tutors for All believes that the achievement gap will be closed in the trenches, one student at a time. This blog builds on our experience running individualized education programs for the last 8 years in district, charter, and parochial schools.

Tutor and Student Spotlight: Soriya and Jacquez

P1000961This month’s Tutor and Student Spotlight features Soriya (Ms. Peng), a Lead Tutor from Wentworth Institute of Technology and Jacquez, a 7th Grader from the Maurice Tobin School.  Over the course of last semester, Jacquez’s score on his Show What You Know Exams grew from 59% to 89% (30%).  Jacquez was one of the top five Tobin students who grew the most from tutorial last semester.

Why do you tutor?

Soriya: “I got into tutoring my freshman year of high school and was happy that I was able to find a tutoring gig here in Boston.  I love knowing that I can help further a student’s quality of education while getting to know someone new.  Being able to take part in someone’s development is always a good feeling.”

What have you learned from Ms. Peng during tutoring?

Jacquez: “Ms. Peng taught me how to multiply decimals better.  Ms. Peng taught me how to turn fractions into percentages.  Ms. Peng taught me how to turn fractions into decimals.”

What have you learned from Jacquez in tutorial?

Soriya: “Looking back at my years in middle school, it was pretty miserable and boring so I can relate to how he feels as we walks into yet another class. I think my job is to reiterate what he has learned, but in a more engaging way.  Jacquez is a really bright kid, but with so many students in this school, it’s hard to stand out and show everyone how great of a kid he is.”

What do you like the most about tutorial?

Jacquez: “At first I didn’t like it because I thought I knew everything but then Ms. Peng was cool and I started liking tutoring. Me and Ms. Peng started to get through work easily and Ms. Peng taught me a lot of new stuff. She’s a great tutor.”

Soriya: “With Jacquez, I’ve been able to track his growth because I was able to return this semester.  By seeing this commitment within each other, we are both comfortable with each other and know that we’re here to help each other.  Tutorial gives both the tutor and student an insight of our lives and enables us to create a professional working relationship.”
Has Ms. Peng ever done anything creative or really funny??  What was it?

Jacquez: “Ms. Peng did creative things like if I didn’t get a problem she would try to put it in other formations for me to understand the problem.”

Has Jacquez ever done anything creative or really funny? What was it?

Soriya: “I think mentioning just one of his really funny moments would be too hard! Jacquez is always creatively doodling in between me correcting his worksheets, so it’s nice to see his artistic side. Overall he’s just a really funny kid and I think that’s what makes our relationship and tutoring sessions so fun and relaxed.”

What are your favorite things to do outside of school?

Jacquez: “What I mostly do right after-school is go to Chacho’s (pizza) and then I go to the Tobin Community Center that’s where my Uncle Dorien works.  I go work out and then after work-out, I play basketball and my uncle trains me then I go home to my Grandfather (pop-pop) and do some homework with my dad. Then I watch tv and eat food and have ice cream and maybe play the game and go to sleep.”

What else would you like people to know about you?

Soriya: “I lost my native language of Khmer when I entered the American school system, so as one could imagine, school was pretty difficult as a kid. I don’t think I ever felt comfortable with an educator enough to even admit I didn’t understand something. Of course as I got older, this just made it more difficult and really made me realize how critical this stage is. With that experience and having four younger siblings, I would want someone besides family to be there for me and my educational development. Especially in a school with a larger student to teacher ratio, it’s really difficult for a student to get the attention they need to get a quality education. With Tutors for All, students get the attention they need and with Jacquez’s ridiculous improvement, it just shows how important this program is. I tutor because I know that’s what would have helped me. For any student out there, I’d say that if you reach out to any kid of any age, you’ll never regret it.”

Meet All-star Co-op Bennett Hadley


We are incredibly excited to introduce you to Bennett Hadley.  He will be working with us as our Northeastern Co-op for the semester.  The Northeastern Co-op program allows students to compliment their academic study with full-time employment in a position related to their academic and/or career interests.  I had a chance to sit down with Bennett on his first day of work and learn a little bit more about him and why he chose to serve with Tutors for All.

T4A: Bennett, what brought you to Tutors for All this Fall?

Bennett: During the volunteer fair this Fall, I walked right past Andreas (a T4A Coordinator/ Lead Tutor) and a few flyers fell out of his hand.  I picked them up and gave them to him and he asked, “Do you want to be a tutor?” and I was like, “I’m going to think about it.  No thanks.”   I was walking back to my apartment and thinking about it and I realized that I actually kind of did want to tutor.  So I walked back and said, “Yeah I want to do it.”  And I signed up.

T4A: What are you studying?

Bennett: I’m currently a Physics major, but I’m looking to switch it to math.  Last semester, I was kind of searching for what I want to do and I think I’ve settled for math.

T4A: Was that impacted at all by tutoring math?

Bennett: Maybe a little bit.  I’ve always enjoyed doing math and helping others with problems.  It was an easy transition.

T4A: What were your favorite moments tutoring at Tobin this Fall?

Bennett: I really enjoyed the days when I was working with my student and she got really into it.  She would ask me questions about what we were doing and why is the answer this and why am I doing this.  I really liked it when she asked questions and was interested in what we were learning about.

T4A: What made you interested in being a Co-Op with us and what are you the most excited about?

 Bennett: Last semester in the Fall, I really enjoyed my time tutoring.  I have thought about pursuing a career in education and that this would be the best way to explore that.

T4A: What was your favorite childhood book?

Bennett:  The Harry Potter Series.  I absolutely adored it.  I think I started reading them around the time that the third one came out.  I was still pretty young- like 7 or 8 maybe.  And I went to the midnight release of the last 3 books.  I read through the series several times.  I still love it.  Out of the Harry Potter series, my favorite book would have to be 3.

T4A: So when you’re not tutoring with us, what do you like to do for fun?IMG_0072 (1)

Bennett: I really like skiing.  I ski a lot.  I’m on the club team at Northeastern.  We do races and stuff.  It’s my favorite thing to do.

T4A: Growing up, who was your favorite teacher?

Bennett: I’ve had a few really great teachers.  My 7th and 8th grade homeroom teacher (whom I also had for a few classes) pushed me and my classmates.  I also had a great teacher for a class called “Writing the Prose,” which was basically 11th Grade writing and composition and grammar.  He was a quirky guy- quite old, but he was sharp.  Both those teachers were tough teachers.  They really challenged all their students and held high expectations, but were still really friendly and approachable.

T4A: As this semester is starting, do you have any words of wisdom or advice for tutors as they jump into tutoring?

Bennett: Come in excited with a lot of energy and don’t ever give up on your student.  Persistence is key.

T4A: Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to include in your story?

Bennett: I’m really into music.  I really like my music and am particular about my music.  I like alternative stuff or indie.  I like a lot of different stuff.  When I’m not doing anything or sitting around my apartment, I am always listening to music.

Elizabeth Marshall, Tutor Support Coordinator

MGH Program Continues to Produce Dramatic Results

DSC_7223This Fall, Tutors for All continued our partnership with the Mass General Hospital Center for Community Health Improvement by offering academic support in core subjects to scholars in 10th-12th grade who had been identified as needing extra academic support.  In addition, graduates of the MGH scholars program were given the option to continue receiving academic support from our coaches (MGH program term for tutors).

 Over the course of nine weeks, scholars were coached for two hours a week in math, literacy, or science.  Tutors for All used curriculum created in house and tailored to the specific needs of scholars by their coaches.  At the beginning of the Fall, scholars set goals for the semester with their coaches with the focus on improving their math skills, improving their reading skills, or improving their overall GPA.

At the end of the semester, scholars who had focused on reading or math skills took assessements to see how much they learned.  Six scholars took the math assessment (GMADE) and three scholars took the reading assessment (GRADE).  Scholars grew an impressive average of 2.23 grade levels on their exams.  We even had one student who grew 5.4 grade levels on her GMADE and is now testing on grade level as a 10th Grade student.

 This graph breaks down the growth by assessment. Scholars taking the math assessment began lower, with an average Grade Equivalency (GE) of 5.85 compared to 7.23 on the reading assessment. They also showed more growth, 2.37 grade levels compared to 1.97. Math assessment scores ended with an average GE of 8.22, and reading with an average GE of 9.20.

When we asked the scholars about why they grew so much, they talked about their coaches.  One Emily MGHstudent said, “I would like thank her a lot for all of these new methods and words. I appreciate all she has done for me and I really love being here because of her.”  Another student told us, “Thank you so much [to the coach] for having the time and patience with me.”

When I asked Luisa Baginski, the MGH Program Manager about the growth, she said, “I was privileged to witness consistent effort on behalf of scholars and coaches this semester, and I am proud – although not surprised – at the results they have achieved.”

We look forward to seeing more growth from our scholars this Spring.  If you have any interest in coaching an MGH Scholar this semester, there are still a few positions available so make sure to apply!

-Elizabeth Marshall, Tutor Support Coordinator

Preempting the Achievement Gap, One Second Grader at a Time


20141210_170158The Fall of 2014 brought a number of changes at Tutors For All.  Through a partnership with the YMCA, the organization began a new program at the Curtis Guild School in East Boston, and welcomed program director Hannah DeAngelis to steer the program, and take over Tutors For All’s successful Tobin Program in Mission Hill.

This Fall also brought another exciting new project, a 2nd grade program. The results of the program were astounding.  Between the first and second Show What You Know tests, the class average rose an average of 34%, with almost every student achieving at least 30% growth.

Working with Hannah, I had a chance to ask what her thoughts were when starting the 2nd grade program.  It was an easy choice.  Hannah told me, “We had more than enough tutors to meet the needs of the 2nd graders at the YMCA.”

SkillTracker_JumpGrade 2It took some time to develop materials for the program.   There was no second grade curriculum and no skill tracker developed.  However, working closely with 2nd grade teachers, YMCA and Curtis Guild Staff, the Guild team built new materials all within a week.  Tutorial skills ranged from counting to patterns and attributes to measurements.

During the last week of the program, I sat down with 2nd graders Davi, Juan and Gabrielly.  I asked what each of them liked about tutoring.  Juan was quick to chirp in, “Tutoring is hard.” When I pried a bit further, he clarified, “My tutor never gives up.  Even when I don’t know, she pushes me to learn.”

The YMCA program is still hiring a few spots for the spring semester, so apply now to make a difference.  Special shout-outs to all the 2nd graders, tutors, lead tutors, and to YMCA program coordinators Rachel Hemstock and Kevin DeCosta for helping this program reach its full potential.

Andreas Wolfe, YMCA Lead Tutor and Tobin Program Coordinator



Celebrating our Fall Programs

On Thursday, December 4th, over 25 tutors, coordinators, and program managers gathered at the NonProfit Center for our Fourth Annual Awards Night.  This evening was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the multitude of accomplishments from our tutors this semester!  Everyone enjoyed pizza (graciously donated to the event by Regina Pizzeria), talked to one another, and listened closely as the following awards were presented…


MVP: Caroline MartelAward's Night #3

Growth Mindset Award: Soriya Peng

Most Patient: Aiza Kabeer

Most Enthusiastic: Makaylin Randall

Most Hours Volunteered: Bennett Hadley

Rookie Award: Taylor Peck


Award's Night 1MGH AWARDS:Award's Night #2

MVP- Harrison Soebroto

Growth Mindset Award: Heer Patel

Most Enthusiastic:  Lauren Chaleff

Most Hours Volunteered: Cathy Baker



MVP:  Rebecca VilardoAward's Night #4

Growth Mindset Award: Lucas Dispoto

Most Patient:  Sylvia Sanchez

Most Enthusiastic: Sara Chaffee

Most Hours Volunteered: Tina Safford

Rookie Award: Mariana Bastarrachea



MVPs: Desiree Houston and Gina Jimenez

Morning Person: Elsie Mayo

Award's Night #5Growth Mindset Award: Joel Betke

Most Enthusiastic: Thien Le

Most Patient: Ben Moran and Tom Little

Most Hours Volunteered: Tim Sakharov

Infectious Positivity: Sam Robertson

Student Rapport Building: Lexus Williams

Student Flexibility: Phillip Jones, Ben Bolotin, and Jacinta Dyke


Congratulations to all the award recipients and to everyone who has tutored with us this semester!  We appreciate all the work you do to help us bridge the achievement gap!

Applications are open for Spring tutoring positions.  Remember that we reward any referral that leads to the hiring and successful placement of a work-study or volunteer tutor with a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate.

 Happy Holidays and we look forward to working with you again in the New Year!

Elizabeth Marshall, Tutor Support Coordinator

Jennifer Zavala: Tutor, College Graduate, Mom

Jen ZavalaI’m a first generation college student.  Going to college was very different for me.  I didn’t have any guidance.  I didn’t know anything about how the process worked.  Guidance counselors asked me: “Where do you want to go to school?” I couldn’t even put that together.  I remember my guidance counselor threw out a few colleges and Northeastern was one of them. I ended up going to Northeastern.


The first year or two of college was just figuring out what this is.  I was a straight A student in high school.  But you need to put in a lot of time in college. You have to have the discipline to be on your own, and to know that you need to go to class to do your projects.


I stumbled across Tutors for All because I was looking for a work study job.  I remember the day I met with Mark.  He interviewed me and hired me on the spot.

I grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts in a tough neighborhood.  It’s low income and back then, there was a lot of crime and violence.   So I had seen that all before, but when I started working for Tutors for All, I saw the other side of it.  I saw urban youth facing their own challenges.  Single parent households and  teen pregnancy were very common.  I wanted to make a difference, but  it was hard because I was a college sophomore telling high school freshmen and sophomores: “this is what we’re going to do”. I had to be an adult, yet I was still only a student. Eventually, I became a lead tutor and led a team of four other tutors as we helped Boston high school students.


When I got pregnant my sophomore year, I didn’t want to stop going to college.  My mom and dad said, “You have to work,” and I did as a coordinator at Tutors for All.  It was with a lot of sweat and tears and not without regrets.  I didn’t get to take full advantage of college life.  But I did get my degree and I graduated in 2008 on time.


I studied business management.  I have been working for banks ever since.  I started as a teller and I worked for a few financial institutions. Today, I work for First Republic in downtown Boston.  I am a private banker.  I deal with high net-worth clients and businesses helping them with all their needs: checking, savings, mortgage, and wealth-management.  I really like what I do.  I have a lot of flexibility.  I deal with clients all the time in different situations.  I get invited to events and get involved with different organizations to help make things happen around the city.

jen z


My eight-year-old is in 3rd grade.  It’s been a tough year for her because she now has to be a big kid.  Because of working with Tutors for All, I have the experience to deal with her.  She comes home frustrated and she says, “Mom, I can’t do this math homework” so I break it down for her.  I am careful about how I say things so that I don’t make her feel like she’s not smart enough.  Tutors for All gave me that confidence to be able to help her.  I constantly challenge her to think: “Does this make sense?  Explain it yourself.  You may understand what you are writing, but do other people understand it?” I think it’s because I have that tutoring experience in the back of my head that it always puts me in that mode.  It’s an hour every day of homework: reading and writing homework, math homework.


My advice for current tutors is to have a lot of patience.   If a tutor doesn’t show a student that they really care,  it is not going to work.  As a tutor, that’s the hardest thing to learn how to do.  It takes time and it doesn’t happen right away.  No matter how much you get trained up front, it’s not something that you can be taught.  You can learn to lesson plan and how to teach long division, but it’s having that ability to show kids “I’m here because I care about you”.  That makes all the difference.  After all, everything that we do is driven by passion.


Ice Cream Social

Bring out the papers, pens, and ice cream because school is back! September is a wonderful thing for Tutors for All because it means we’re back to welcoming new tutors and helping out more kids! What better way to welcome back tutors, new and old, than with some J.P. Licks ice cream? For those who may not know what J.P. Licks is (Is it a restaurant? Is it a dentist’s office?), it is a local ice cream chain that was first started in Jamaica Plains in 1981. Now with ten stores in the area, J.P. Licks has easily become one of the hottest spots to go to any night of the week. And thanks to this wonderful ode to childhood, our Ice Cream Social just a couple of weeks ago at our T4A office in Downtown Boston, was cooled down with some J.P. Licks-donated ice cream! Talk about sweetening up a deal.


With around twenty faces livening up our office, we started off the evening with a Guess-Which-Name Game Icebreaker which included some….familiar names (Hey Mark!)6

This evening had a great turn out with an opportunity for tutors to feel welcomed back and that this place is more than just an office but their home. This social is just one of the many ways in the past year we’ve gotten our tutors together—we have also held our famous kickball tournament, which combines competition and fun, as well as awards ceremony towards the end of the year.

We’re so happy to have everyone back and in the full swing of things—looking forward to great moments and events! Check back soon!


The Bon Voyage Interview: 2013-2014 AmeriCorps VISTAs

On August 8th, our two AmeriCorps VISTAs will finish their service year with Tutors for All. Charlotte Mostertz, our Tutor Recruitment Coordinator, will be moving on to athenahealth and Esther Gonzalez, our Development Coordinator, will be moving back to the West Coast. Chris Baginski, our Director of Business Development, sat down with them to talk about their VISTA year experience.

Kickball for All T Shirt From left to right: Charlotte, Esther, and Samantha (Micah Fellow)

CB: It’s amazing that your year is already coming to an end! Can you explain what AmeriCorps and what VISTA is, for people who don’t know?

CM: I guess the way I’ve always conceptualized VISTA is that we’re “human grants.” Tutors for All, and all sorts of other non-profits apply for three year VISTA grants, and instead of funding or other resources, they get human capital- us.

EG: The acronym VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America. So yeah, we’re paid through the government rather than the non-profit we work for.

CM: There are a lot of different branches of AmeriCorps, but VISTA is specifically geared towards eradicating poverty.

CB: How do you think your experience was different than some of the other VISTAs in your cohort?



EG: I guess I would say that a lot of VISTAs didn’t have anyone else at their site in a different position. For instance, a friend of ours worked in a municipal and he was the only VISTA in his workplace, which was somewhat isolating. And we also had a MICAH fellow, the fabulous Sam!

CM: There’s a learning curve when staff members are so young, but it’s also positive because there are fresh perspectives and energies.

CB: What drew you to work with Tutors for All this past year?

EG: Well, in my case a few things. I care about education, so there’s that! I remember distinctly that my interview with Mark was really long, because i was so passionate about the position itself. I had experience in fundraising, and also working in programs for an organization that needed administrative and fundraising support, which opened my eyes to how important fund development is for non-profits. So working in development at T4A seemed like a great opportunity to learn skills that would be transferable across different organizations.

CM: For me it was similar. I’m really passionate about education reform and civic obligation and social justice, and I’m at a point in my life when I don’t have obligations that would make working for AmeriCorps too difficult, since I’m only taking care of myself. I was also struck by Aimee, who was our Director of Programs when I started working. The energy that she brought to the position really encouraged me to come here.

CB: How do you think you have grown working with us? Have you learned anything about education or working at a non-profit?



EG: Oh man. There’s a lot of stuff, I’d say. I think VISTA is really unique in that it provides the opportunity to go beyond a normal entry level position. My work with Tutors was both broad and deep in ways that it wouldn’t have been somewhere else.

CM: Likewise. I’d say being in a small non-profit, you have ownership over your domain. I felt like I had a lot of control over recruitment – which was daunting, but it forces you to realize what you’re made of and how far you’re willing to go. And learning how to trust yourself as a professional is key.

CB: What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

EG: Sometimes I think I don’t do anything. [Laughs] I read a lot, news particularly. Long form journalism. It makes me think about whether I can incorporate my love of reading into a career.

CM: That’s a VISTA-budget friendly activity! [Laughs] I read a lot too, I got a library card when I moved to Cambridge. I run a lot, I ran a half-marathon this past May. But you know, just hanging out with my friends – I have great roommates. Normal stuff.

CB: What are your plans and goals for the next chapter of your lives?

CM: Can we just say “TBD” for this question?

EG: [Laughs] Well for me, I’m from California and I’m heading back there. I’m excited to be closer to family. I’ve been in Boston for five years, for school and then work, so it will be nice to go back. Having a job with a finite end date has made it easier to plan the return to my original community. As far as goals, I really care about education, but there are other social missions that are important to me, so I’m looking into a lot of different causes, including working with counseling services, homelessness issues, and domestic violence non-profits.

CM: I’m going to be starting work with athenahealth, which provides practice management resources to physicians online. So I’ll be doing tech recruiting coordination work for them, and learning more about the healthcare industry, which I think will really become the issue of our time. (If it hasn’t already!) I really enjoyed recruitment at T4A. Longterm, I’m standing in front of two divergent paths: going into academia or continuing with a social justice/political minded type work, and maybe working on a 2016 campaign. Both are exciting.

Great Results at our Codman Summer Program!

CodmanCandidresizedtofitThis July Tutors for All ran an intensive high school math school program at Codman Academy. A group of seven students from Codman received individualized instruction Monday through Thursday for three weeks.

At the beginning, middle, and end of the program students were assessed on the same 23 pre-algebraic skills (Integers, Fractions, Decimals, Order of Operations, etc.) Some of the skills are listed below:


Each of the students who participated showed growth between first to last assessments. Five out of the seven students grew at or above a rate 25%, with total student growth averaging at 26%.

Codman Growth on SWYK Summer 2014

Students were surveyed at the end of the program. Most were very pleased with their experience despite the program running during summer break. The following slides are real student quotes from the survey.

Codman Summer 2014 Student Survey Results

Codman Student Survey summer2014slide4

Codman Student Survey summer2014slide6

Tutors for All has been blessed to serve Codman students for the past five years. Fall tutorial at Codman begins Saturday September 27th, 2014. Click here to become a tutor at Codman this fall.

The Most Interesting Tutor in the World? An Interview with Jason Ewas.



When summers roll around, Jason Ewas is a familiar face in the Tutors for All office. A recent Cornell University graduate, Jason has been working with Tutors for All since 2010. He’s coming back for his last summer, and the Tutors for All paparazzi managed to get him to answer a few questions. Read on to find out about his crazy children’s book and where his dancing skills lie.

T4A: What is your full name?

Jason Joseph Ewas

T4A: Where did you go to college and what did you study?

I attended Cornell University and studied English.

T4A: What’s your hometown?

Halifax, MA

T4A: When did you start working with Tutors for All?

Fall 2010

T4A: What drew you to work in education?

At first, a vague desire to help students and, quite frankly, simply needing a work-study job. T4A had an opening, and it seemed like something I might like. During my time at T4A, however, I became increasingly interested in education and committed much of my spare time to tutoring and research.

T4A: What’s your favorite thing about Tutors for All?

Its student-centered approach, and the input that it takes from its tutors. As a tutor, I always felt that I understood the immediate and long term benefits of the content I was teaching. The T4A staff always encouraged tutors to design individualized lessons for each of our students.

T4A: What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?.

I will work in the government or non-profit sector full time, while pursuing a Master’s in Public Affairs (MSPA) at UMass Boston in the evenings.

T4A: What’s your favorite thing to do outside of tutoring?

Reading and writing. I’m currently writing a children’s book about a talking cat named Larry who journeys into the woods. This may seem a little crazy, but it’s loosely based on Dante’s Inferno.

T4A: What’s your favorite food?/Place to eat in Boston?

Anything made by my lovely girlfriend, of course. Since I’m a vegetarian, this includes broccoli Parmesan “meatballs” (I’m not joking), and various other veggie delicacies. My favorite place in Boston is True Bistro in Somerville, even though I’ve only been there twice. It’s delicious vegan food.

T4A: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we didn’t know?

Well, the T4A staff knows this, but most people don’t, and are often surprised and disbelieving when I tell them: I am a very talented hip-hop dancer.