Every week, volunteer tutor Michael del Toro brings his varied academic and extracurricular skills and interests to CIANA’s afterschool tutoring program and shares them with our elementary school-aged students.
In celebration of National Volunteer Month, Michael now shares with us his reflections on tutoring at CIANA during this academic year.
How did you decide to tutor at CIANA’s afterschool program?
When I was in ninth grade, I realized that I really enjoy teaching subjects such as Math, Computer Science, and Writing. I decided to get involved in tutoring; however, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made it quite difficult to find tutoring opportunities, considering that most institutions had been closed. My school tried to link me with an online tutoring organization, but they did not have enough space for more volunteers; nonetheless, that organization suggested that I apply to be a Volunteer Tutor at CIANA. I contacted them and interviewed, and I've loved volunteering here ever since. So, interestingly enough, while my encounter with CIANA was very spontaneous and unexpected, I'm very glad that I decided to volunteer here, as it's been one of my favorite hobbies ever since.
Overall, what has your experience tutoring immigrant children/children of immigrants been like?
My experience has been nothing but inspiring. While, of course, tutoring virtually can be challenging, I've had a very fulfilling and easy time working with my respective students. The kids I've worked with have been polite, hard-working, and eager to learn, and thereby have made my experience teaching very fun and enjoyable. I know I have access to many resources that others don’t have, and I am happy to see my students get engaged when someone takes the time to make sure they learn.
What are some challenges (and advantages) of tutoring virtually?
Tutoring virtually obviously has many drawbacks when compared to tutoring in-person. It's often hard to engage people when they're at home, not in a "school-like" environment, and sometimes teaching certain subjects (e.g. music) can be more difficult over a video call as opposed to an in-person session. However, the kids I've taught have been able to adapt to these challenges, so, in all honesty, this hasn't been very big of an issue. There are also plenty of advantages of tutoring virtually; it's often easier to schedule meetings, attend meetings, and work on online assignments. The key is that they have access to a computer/tablet and high speed internet; if they have that, then all of the other challenges like access and cost of transportation are not a big deal.
Is there a particular subject that you enjoy tutoring the most?
While I enjoy teaching nearly every common subject, my favorites are Math and Computer Science (coding). I would consider myself to be more of a STEM-oriented person, so it makes sense that these are my favorite subjects to teach; I've taught Math to many of my individual students, and I've helped run Physics and Coding classes that work with several students. I've really enjoyed teaching those larger classes, as it feels like I'm teaching a real school class, which is something I know I would enjoy.
Are there any notable memories you have had with students in the program?
The most notable memories are those where students have persisted and progressed their academic skills in some way. For example, in my experience helping students with new and difficult concepts and problems, they often struggle at first. However, the students I've taught were able to overcome their challenges and become better students overall. It really puts a smile on my face when students have that "a ha" moment and overcome their struggles with regards to difficult concepts.
What impact do you hope you have left on students you have worked with?
Above all, I hope that my students know that there are people outside of their community that care a lot about their success. I know they are curious and eager to learn. Also, having gone through nearly all of grade school, I'll concede that there have been times when I haven't liked a certain subject, but as I became more comfortable with it, I started to like it more. I sincerely hope that the students I've taught (at the very least) will be more eager to learn in general, especially in new subjects, such as Computer Science and Music. I hope that I've inspired my students to branch out and explore new subjects that they now find interesting.
We want to express our gratitude to Michael for his commitment to helping CIANA’s youngest clients enhance their education and extracurricular skills. Thank you Michael!
To learn more about or volunteer at our afterschool programs for elementary and middle school students, call (718) 545-4040 or email email@example.com.
For all other open volunteer opportunities at CIANA, visit cianainc.org/volunteer.