Tutors ease the burden on Delaware students’ learning load

As schools started up in a swath of remote and hybrid learning, Carla Ziegler, owner of Traveling TutorZ, needed more help to keep up with the demand of students.

“It’s just been crazy for like a week and a half,” she said. “We’re just doing the best we can to get everyone in but that’s how fast it’s picked up.”

Ms. Ziegler, who began tutoring in 2016 after a career in education, started out by tutoring students in libraries and out of her house. Demand pushed her into having a physical location in Selbyville, which opened late September.

“I’ve even considered opening up another one up north somewhere in Delaware because the kids are struggling all over,” she said.

While classes get underway, Ms. Ziegler said tutoring allows for some additional one-on-one time for students to engage with their education.

“Even though we’re doing this virtual online tutoring, it’s a lot different than what the schooling is doing because we are one-on-one. We can answer their questions,” she said.

Those questions, she said, sometimes target the technical aspects of how to access different parts of remote learning before they delve into the content. Some parents, she noted, aren’t able to keep up with Zoom sessions and just want to learn through the textbook.

“I have other parents who come in and their child, number one, they can’t use the program and the parents are just like, ‘We’re done with it. This is where my child struggles; my child needs to learn how to multiply or how to add and subtract or how to use a number line,’” she said. “And that’s how we work with them. We just work with them on that and they’re kind of not really doing the online stuff as much.”

Joyce Sessoms, of ARK Educational Resource Center in Laurel, called children “social beings.” Of the returning students, she said many are happy to see their tutors again.

She noted one case where, since the ARK is located near a park, the tutor took their session outside.

“[The student] absolutely loved it,” she said. “We were thinking, since that was brought to my attention the student enjoyed it so much, we’re going to suggest that more sessions happen outside with nature as the backdrop. Because that even lends itself to even more effective learning because the student is rebonding with their tutor, and they’re out in nature.”

She has seen all of their returning students enroll again, but not as many new applicants as she expected, given the circumstances.

“I think that’s because the parents are really still uncertain as to how things are going to pan out,” she said.

“Our world as we know it has changed because of COVID so parents are struggling — the ones that are able to go back to work — they’re struggling to find childcare, they’re struggling trying to find someone that can do the remote learning with their students, and so forth. So I understand that they’re kind of hesitant right now about whether or not to put an additional responsibility on themselves and get their students in tutoring. But I would suggest to parents that we don’t have an inexhaustible number of tutors.”

In opening a Sylvan Learning Center in Lewes in September, Jason Blanshine just happened to coincide with a shift in the learning models due to COVID-19 for the start of the school year.

Mr. Blanshine, a former teacher at Rehoboth Elementary School, and his wife, a speech pathologist at Sussex Consortium in the Cape Henlopen School District, started considering it last winter, he said.

“I had mentioned to her that all the extra things that teachers are asked to do today. It felt like I wasn’t teaching as much as I was doing paperwork and planning, and that type of thing,” he said.

Knowing how much teachers have to do “in a single school day, in a single week,” tutoring “allows for extra supplemental educational help,” he said.

He used to tutor after school, and enjoyed the work.

“It was just teaching students that needed the extra help and then when we were done, we were done,” he said.

So far, 10 students have enrolled and several more are scheduled for assessment. He rolled out two school support models for extra guidance during virtual learning for students, too.

The need has been varied so far.

“We’ve seen a lot of different students, really, both those that are interested in enrichment services, and those that are looking to close gaps that may have been there long before COVID, and parents [who] just don’t want to be responsible for their children learning,” he said. “They’ll be the first to tell you that they’re not teachers and they want to make sure that their child isn’t falling behind on their watch.”