Category Archives: Student Spotlight

Tutor and Student Spotlight: Cathy and Halima

IMAG0141This month’s Tutor and Student Spotlight features Cathy from Simmons College and Halima, a 10th Grader from the MGH Youth Scholars Program.  Last semester, Halima grew 5.2 grade levels on her GMADE (Group Mathematics Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation) and is now testing at grade level.  Halima showed the most growth of all the MGH Youth Scholars last semester.

Why do you tutor?

 Cathy: “To improve a student’s knowledge.”

 What have you learned from Cathy during tutoring?

 Halima: “Multiplying and dividing fractions, factoring, and improper and mixed fractions.”

What have you learned from Halima in tutorial?

 Cathy: “I admire Halima’s dedication to use after school time to learn and use her math skills.”


IMAG0138What do you like the most about tutorial?

 Halima: “The fact that I get helped with a subject that I need to improve on.  And that it is one- on-one.”

 Cathy: “Being able to work one-on-one with a scholar.”

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

 Halima: “Something creative that she does is that she teaches me in a way that is fun and enjoyable (which I rarely experience outside of tutoring).”

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

 Cathy: “I would always quiz her on factors and try to trick her.  By the end she wouldn’t back down, even if I tried to see if there was another factor.”

What are your favorite things to do outside of school?

 Halima: “Hang out with friends, go to the movies, and shopping.”

What else would you like people to know about you?

 Cathy: “I enjoy working one-on-one with people, and that’s a reason why I am in college for physical therapy.”

Student and Tutor Spotlight– Kadeeja Davis & Patrick Welton



Kadeeja Davis is a tenth grade student at Community Charter School of Cambridge. Twice a week Kadeeja meets with Mr. Welton to work on her reading comprehension and composition writing skills. We asked them both to write a little bit about their experience. This is what Kadeeja had to say:

“In the tutoring program the tutors are very nice, they sit down and work with you on your work and actually help you out. I learned how to start writing down vocabulary words that I did not understand and define them. Also they helped me learn different ways of understanding an article; I can reread the paragraph over again and once again define words. While in the tutoring program I have noticed that my writing skills have improved so much compared to when I started the program. I have been learning a lot about myself and the way I always second guess myself.

“My tutor is so nice, he makes me laugh and smile when I have down days… My tutor is the best tutor ever. He never yells or gets frustrated when I ask a lot of questions. He seems very interested in what I have to say.

If I can do the program all over I would not change one thing about it. These moments will forever be with me.”

The lesser-known side of our program is the affect it has on our tutors. Often, they’ll leave a session having learned something of their own. Patrick, a senior at Emmanuel College and a veteran tutor in our program, had this to say:

“I like having the opportunity to work one-on-one with a student. Every session is not perfect, but I have learned what works for my student and I can see that I am making a difference. My student has a personality that can light up a room. She is quite extroverted and persistent when speaking, The combination of these attributes makes me smile often. …The best way for my student to produce great work is when she is comfortable in her setting. It is important and possible for her to be herself while maintaining a professional demeanor. Not only has she improved drastically in her reading comprehension skills, I feel that she has matured greatly as a person. It was a pleasure to be her tutor.”

Congratulations to Kadeeja Davis & Patrick Welton for their hard work and persistence!



Student and Tutor Spotlight– Feb 2010: Deja Jacobs and Natashia Thomas


Deja Jacobs is an 8th grade student at Smith Leadership Academy in Fields Corner, Dorchester. Twice a week Deja meets with Ms. Natashia Thomas to work on basic-skills mathematics. We asked them both to write a little bit about their experience together. This is what Deja had to say:

“My tutor Ms. Thomas is great. Out of all the tutors we had she’s the most interactive and actually wants to help me. I like when Natashia knows that I don’t get something, and I also like how when she comes in to tutorial she always has a smile on her face.

Recently I’ve been working on percentages, converting fractions and working on negative numbers. We also have been working on review like multiplying decimals and using mean, median, mode. These are helping me in math… I would recommend tutorial for my friends that need it because you get paired with someone who cares about your education and wants to help you. Basically, this is how tutorial has been helpful and improved my math skills.” Natashia, a senior studying Business Management at Simmons College, has always found time to help in her community. A Brockton native, she tutored her peers in math at her high school. Before joining TfA, she worked in a Dorchester community center. “She’s got a ‘let’s get this done’ attitude that really motivates her student and her tutors,” says Smith Leadership Academy Program Manager Christopher Baginski. “Always on time, always professional, and all-business, I’m thankful to have her working with us.”

This is what Natashia had to say about working with Deja: “Deja and I have worked together since September 2009. Over the past six months we’ve tackled negative integers, mean, median, mode, range, strengthening skills to solve basic mathematics using the four major functions, along with conversions of fractions, decimals and percents. After focusing each session on her weakness and incorporating her interests, it became clear that Deja had a better understanding of the material presented. She has begun to master most of the topics in each session. Deja’s greatest achievement throughout the six month period was scoring approximately 20 points higher on her last Show What You Know assessment, which was a tremendous improvement. Essentially, Deja is an amazing student who tries hard and it shows, especially through the improvements she has made on each Show What You Know.”

Congratulations to Deja Jacobs and Natashia Thomas for their hard work and achievements!

Student Tutor Spotlight– March 2010: Victoria Cole & Stephanie Carlisle


Just because the students are small, doesn’t mean the hurdles are any smaller. Stephanie Carlisle, a graduate student working toward a masters in Teaching at Boston College, knows this. Twice a week she comes to Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton to work on basic-skills literacy with first grader Victoria Cole. Victoria is an amiable child and a willing student; the kind of student that any teacher would love. But, not unlike many of her peers throughout the public school system, she lacks the necessary tools to be a competent reader and perform at grade level. For the past two month, Ms. Carlisle has been working to get her there. ”

The thing that stands out the most about Victoria is her positive attitude. She rarely turns down a challenge; in her writing assignments, she would rather write words that are difficult for her to spell than change her creative ideas to make the work easier. Her hard work is paying off, too – in the weeks that we’ve been working together, Victoria’s reading and writing have come a long way.”

On any given day, Victoria can be seen, pencil in hand, working diligently to combine letters into words and words into proper sentences. When reading, she may furl her brow at a certain word, but she’ll sound out each letter until she gets it right. Recently, they’ve been working on “sight words”. These are words that a reader will know automatically (ie: the, when, other), and are a necessary bridge to becoming a fluid reader. Each sight word is written out on a note-card and together they work through a stack. For each sight word Victoria gets correct she colors in a big star in her tutorial journal, which Ms. Carlisle has drawn in prior to the start of the session. This opportunity to combine academics with coloring is only the start.

“One fun activity that we have done is the ‘Make Your Own Mad-Libs’ book. Victoria gets to customize the story by filling in the blanks and illustrating the pages herself. When we finish, she gets to take the books home to read with her family. This has been a great way to practice identifying and writing the letter combinations that we are learning, and the final product is a book that she can be proud of.”

Congratulations to Victoria Cole and Stephanie Carlisle for their hard work and achievements!

Student Tutor Spotlight: Michael Berthaud and Ruben Raskin

Michael Berthaud is a sixth grade student at Maurice Tobin Elementary school in Mission Hill. His tutor Mr. Ruben Raskin, a senior at Emerson College, studies writing for television and film. For a little over a month, Michael and Ruben have been meeting twice a week to work on Michael’s basic mathematics skills. Already Michael has made significant progress. He has passed into the advanced level curriculum and scored 20% higher on his second Show What You Know assessment than on his first. The fact that he has shown such improvement with only three and a half weeks of instruction attests to his tutor’s leadership. Also, both Michael and Ruben have perfect attendance records. In light of their shared success, we asked them to talk about their experience together.

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Student Tutor Spotlight: Deniesha Smith-Bufford & Caitlin Charette

A look back at the month of November gives us a chance to shine a spotlight on another exemplary student and tutor pair. Deniesha Smith-Bufford, a 6th-grade student at Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot School, and Caitlin Charette, a freshman at Emmanuel College, have grabbed the attention of Tutors for All staff. This is not only because they are a model for how students and tutors should work together, but also because they have demonstrated the tangible benefits of tutorial.

Although Deniesha is a veteran of the Tutors for All summer program at Young Achievers, she still felt anxious going into the fall semester. Deniesha explained that before getting to know Caitlin, she was afraid her new tutor “was going to be mean… I felt kinda nervous.” However, Deniesha’s behavior in tutorial certainly did not betray these initial apprehensions. Rather, her performance reflects how she and Caitlin have worked well together.

Deniesha has maintained a perfect attendance record this semester, and her Show What You Know assessments indicate an outstanding 21.43% growth rate in her math skills. The words of Denieshas tutor speak just as loudly as these facts: “Deniesha works very hard during every tutoring session,” says Caitlin. “She brings a positive attitude and shows up early.” Program Manager Aimee Mott echoes this positive sentiment about Denieshas attitude, “She’s never even tardy!”

Caitlin has also never missed a tutorial session. Her singular dedication to her student reflects a commitment to her personal goal of becoming a middle school History teacher. Through Tutors for All, Caitlin is gaining hands-on experience in the education sector even though she is only a freshman. “I have learned to interact with a student in a one-on-one setting,” she says.

Caitlin is also becoming familiar with the pleasure of witnessing firsthand the ah-ha moments with students, such as when Deniesha “finally gets a concept and a huge smile appears on her face.” Finally, Caitlin is discovering the joy that is unique to one-on-one tutoring. “Deniesha always makes me laugh when we play multiplication war,” says Caitlin. “She gets really competitive and talks about answering multiplication problems faster than me.” Tutors for All is building the strength and confidence of students and the leadership of young educators.

We hope Caitlin’s experience will serve her well in her future career, and we congratulate Denisha on her accomplishments this semester!

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!

Student Tutor Spotlight: Shadrach Walcott & Dejeanne Doublet

Shadrach Walcott is a rising 8th grade student at Young Achievers Pilot School in Mattapan. His tutor Ms. Dejeanne Doublet, a senior at Boston University, studies Environmental Science and Print Journalism. Between July and August, Shadrach and his tutor met daily in T4A’s 5-week summer intensive program at Young Achievers to build Shadrach’s skills in Math and English Language Arts. During this time Shadrach’s performance as a student has, in the words of his tutor, “skyrocketed.” Shad started the semester by scoring 79% on his diagnostic test. He subsequently scored 89% and 92% on his interim tests. Inspired by Shad’s and Dejeanne’s success, Tutors for All asked them to talk about what made their work together so effective.

Having served with Tutors for All for three semesters between 2010-2011, Ms. Doublet returned to the organization this summer, and it is clear that her passion about education hasn’t waned. Not content to merely execute her lessons and move on, Ms. Doublet likes to see her students’ growth reflected in their attitudes about themselves. She states, “The best part of tutorial is that moment when students realize that they’ve learned something new – that they can do something they couldn’t do yesterday. I love it when students feel proud of what they’ve accomplished and when they say themselves that they feel they are ‘becoming smarter.’”

Shad meditates on why he found Ms. Doublet’s approach helpful: “I knew she would be very easy to understand from our first session together. I felt good each day because I learned everything step by step. She taught me how to divide, multiply, subtract, and add fractions. In literacy, I learned a lot about figurative language such as analogy and personification.” Dejeanne also learned from her student: “When discussing ideas and themes that appear in the novels we were reading, such as justice and friendship,” says Ms. Doublet, “I would say that I gained just as much from hearing his ideas as he gained from me.”

The way in which Ms. Doublet tapped into Shad’s personality to engage him more deeply in the lessons exemplifies her empathetic approach. Indeed, Ms. Doublet encouraged Shad’s own creativity while teaching literacy: “We incorporated a movie script into one of his lessons, and he impressed me with a well thought-out script. We have also incorporated some drawing exercises to help Shad ‘visualize’ the text. His drawings were phenomenal and really captured the essence of the text.” Given his artistic perspective, Ms. Doublet’s approach made perfect sense: “I like reading because it’s like a motion picture in my head,” says Shad. Ms. Doublet describes her method best: “By switching my role and reflecting on myself as a learner, I was better able to understand Shad as a student and incorporate techniques that make learning easier in our lessons.”

Dejeanne wishes her student the best of luck in the academic year. “Through this program, I have come to know Shad as a hardworking, creative, and insightful student,” says Ms. Doublet. “He is sure to go on to do great things.”