If you’ve got an affinity for math, there’s a tutoring center in the village of Liverpool that could use your help.
The Tutoring Center at St. Joseph the Worker Church, located at 1001 Tulip St., is an all-volunteer service that provides free tutoring to kids and adults throughout the community from 3 to 5 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. And since the advent of Common Core math, tutors with expertise in that field are in high demand.
“We started getting a lot of requests for math help, and I didn’t want to say no, but more people showed up than were on the schedule,” said Kelley Romano, who started the center four years ago. “It’s this new math. They’re really having trouble understanding the Common Core. I feel like I’m short on tutors, especially math, and we can recruit from the community.”
Tutors need not have any formal teaching experience, though many are retired educators. Romano just asks that volunteers have. They aren’t required to be parishioners at St. Joseph the Worker. They do need to complete a mandatory three-hour Child Abuse Prevention class offered by the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse.
Romano, a former English teacher, said she launched the center with the approval of church leaders at St. Joseph and sister parish Immaculate Heart of Mary because she saw a need for the service.
“I just feel like there’s always a need, and with the economy… I know how much tutors charge, and most people aren’t going to pay,” she said. “It’s low to charge $30 to $35. That’s the low end, unless it’s a high school kid tutoring. [Liverpool Elementary] now has a different demographic than when my kids were going there. There’s a lot of kids on free lunch. So I thought, definitely, there’s a need out there.”
Romano’s experiences as both a teacher and mother of five prompted her to go ahead with the center.
“I know from experience that particularly eighth- to ninth-grade boys, you’re going to lose them if you don’t do something,” she said.
When she can, Romano recruits tutors from her own family.
“I make my kids, Abby and Anthony, tutor when they’re home from school, because they’re really good at math,” she said. “Whenever they’re home, even on a break, if we’re operating, I tell them, ‘Don’t make any plans. You’re coming to tutor.’”
But with her kids in college, Romano often finds herself short on certain subjects. She generally recruits volunteers by putting up fliers at the church. This year, she stepped up her efforts by sending fliers to some of the schools near the church. That’s also how she gets students.
“We get some regular students, but most of them just come once or twice and then we don’t hear from them again,” she said. “We’re just volunteers. I don’t call people.”
Students are asked to sign up for tutoring times so that Romano knows how many tutors to have on a given afternoon and in which subjects. Participants range in age from elementary school to adult. Tutors help with any homework subject, from math and science to English and social studies. Students taking English as a second language are also welcome, and the center also provides help studying for citizenship and GED exams. Students are required to bring some sort of work with them.
“The rule of tutoring is that they really are supposed to be in a class, or they have something that they’re working on,” Romano said. “We do not do lesson plans. I wouldn’t be able to get the tutors that I get. There are tutors that do prepare stuff at home. As a tutor, I don’t do that. I may go to the library and see if there’s something I can use. I’ve been down to the CYO where they do the intense ESL down there, and BOCES has free ESL classes. A lot of the students are coming from BOCES, and they get all this paperwork and this homework and they bring it here because they don’t understand it, so we help them with that.”
Romano emphasized that, though the tutoring sessions take place at a church, there is no attempt to discuss religion with students.
“We’re not pushing religion at all,” she said. “I am a member of this church, but it’s just tutoring. We’re not trying to evangelize at all. We’re just helping them get a step up in life.”
And the students aren’t the only ones getting a boost from tutoring.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Romano said. “We’ve learned a lot, and it’s as much, if not more of, a benefit for us to work with these kids, especially when you see that they get their citizenship or they pass a test or something.”
For more information or to volunteer, contact Romano at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 440-4119.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.