In the spring of 2020, College of Education (COE) Dean Nathan Murata issued a call for summer community outreach to support K–12 students in Hawaiʻi who were impacted by the closure of schools and summer programs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. From this request, the COE began working with schools across the islands to provide free online summer enrichment services in sports skills, personal training, and literacy.
Special Education Assistant Professor Kim Mendenhall Brennan, who developed an online reading tutoring program to assist PreK–12 students, paired her summer semester college students, along with volunteers from other COE programs, with the younger students as part of a service learning opportunity. The online reading tutoring program included a lesson plan template that guided tutors through their 30-minute Zoom sessions, three days per week for six weeks at the tutee’s instructional reading level.
This program moved into the Fall 2020 Semester to satisfy field requirements in place of face-to-face experiences for students in five different COE cohorts as a result of continued school closures. Special Education Instructor Brian Kajiyama joined Brennan as co-coordinator of the 2020 Online Literacy Enrichment Program. Together, they partnered tutors/tutees, communicated with administrators, school coordinators, parents, and faculty; gathered consent forms; trained tutors; and provided ongoing support and communications.
“Numerous schools across the islands participated, providing names of interested parents of struggling readers, along with private parties reaching out for reading support of their children,” Brennan said. “Results of the fall semester jumped from 25 COE students and 28 PreK–12 students from summer to 100 COE students and 100 PreK–12 students.”
Under the direction of Kajiyama and Brennan, the program continued with the Spring 2021 Reading Online Literacy Enrichment Program. As schools opened up to more face-to-face learning, this semester of tutoring was incorporated as a service learning component in three courses.
Kajiyama stated, “From June 2020 through May 2021, 182 COE tutors were able to provide individualized online reading support to nearly 200 PreK–12 students in Hawaiʻi and four students in the continental U.S. Each tutor provided activities that not only met the needs of their tutee, but were tailored to individual interests and abilities.”
Community Google Doc Reflections from COE tutors:
“This has truly been one of the most rewarding and wonderful experiences of my life.”
“This tutoring experience has been the most helpful teaching experience I have gotten in the COE program so far.”
“I have truly enjoyed this experience and was blessed to work with a wonderful student. I have been so happy to watch him grow in his confidence in reading and actually develop an interest in reading for fun. I also learned more about myself and learned how to navigate when my student lost interest or was struggling with a book. It showed me that I have to be quick to transition when the student needs an adjustment. I am overall very grateful for this experience and look forward to teaching when that time comes. These students are amazing and their willingness to learn is so exciting!”
“I am finding that doing this online tutoring program has given me the opportunity to try out all the new things we are learning about in our technology class. I don’t think I would have had this opportunity had I been in the field. A blessing in disguise!”
Comments from Parents of PreK–12 Students:
“Our children loved the one-on-one time with their tutors. They looked forward to each session, and having someone to interact with outside of the immediate family. They enjoyed the reading selections on Epic!, and I loved that they could practice reading skills with other experienced teachers.”
“Tutoring was a great experience. My son learned to enjoy reading. [Tutee] was able to access books that he loves and discover new interests. He has learned how to apply the knowledge he gained through his reading. His comprehension has increased and his ability to read harder words for him has expanded. Thank you for this opportunity. I know it takes a lot of work to coordinate this and we are so grateful for your service!”
“As I monitored their sessions, I enjoyed the content and the delivery in which [tutor] provided. She was very knowledgeable and helpful towards my son’s education. My son enjoyed and looked forward to his sessions with [tutor].”
“Absolutely positive! This was our first experience with tutoring for our child. We couldn’t be any happier with the outcome!”