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Spring 2014

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Tutor Profile: Julie Gallardo Janus Literacy Champion makes a difference

Each Wednesday morning at 8:30, after Julie Gallardo has settled into her desk for an hour, she places a call to Cheltenham Elementary.

It’s a school she’s never visited, on Denver’s northwest side. The student body is 95 percent Hispanic, and 99 percent of its 528 students receive free or reduced-price lunch.

Usually she speaks with a chatty little girl “who likes to talk about her brothers and sisters, or how she played in the snow.” Gallardo and her first-grader read a story together, each looking at a computer screen, Gallardo at her desk, the child in her classroom. They play word games.

One recent Wednesday, another little girl picked up the phone. Gallardo’s regular student was out sick. “She doesn’t normally get to do it,” Gallardo said, but she asked the girl if it was okay with her teacher, and then spent 30 minutes reading with her. “You could hear how excited she was. To them, it’s a little bit of a privilege.”

It was a small moment that showed Gallardo what a valuable thing she’s doing, serving as a TutorMate volunteer.

She’s an employee at Janus Capital Group, an executive assistant to the chief compliance officer. Janus is located in the Cherry Creek area, a few miles southeast of Denver’s downtown.

Being the mother of two young boys, Julie Gallardo has strong feelings about teaching children to read. “It’s so important at their age,” she says.

She joined the TutorMate program last year. Her student was a shy boy. “It was rewarding,” she says, “because you could see his progress throughout the year. We met face to face at the end of the year. The students came to Janus for snacks and Janus gave each student a brand new hardcover book to keep. I showed him my desk, and you could see him kind of smile and put it all together: this was who was talking to him all year.”

She joined Janus three and a half years ago and says Janus makes a priority of community involvement, offering employees eight hours of paid time off per year to volunteer in worthy outside activities.

Her two previous employers didn’t do that.

“Here, it’s a different culture,”she says, “and it made a difference.”

Now her cubicle bears a sticker that reads “Janus Literacy Champion” and she’s fielding questions from co-workers on how they can become TutorMate volunteers themselves.

“There’s a lot of word of mouth. People are talking highly of the program.”

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Innovations Update From Seth Weinberger, Innovations' Founder & CEO

Spring is a busy time at Innovations for Learning and our TutorMate program.

The Innovations tutoring team is working on arrangements for end-of-school-year get togethers where tutors and students will meet each other and spend time face-to-face. We highly encourage all tutors to attend. According to tutors who have attended end-of-year get togethers in previous years, this is by far one of their favorite parts of our program. The hugs and tears are an emotional climax to the tutor-student relationship. To experience first-hand the appreciation of teachers and students is a wonderful culmination of your months of dedication and service.

We are pleased to announce that we have recently added Phoenix to our growing list of TutorMate cities, and this fall we will add Tucson and Columbus (Ohio), too. We also have some new tutoring partners, including Wells Fargo, National Institutes for Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois, Coyote Logistics, and BMO Harris.

A special thanks to Boeing for their generous donation of $25,000 in their inaugural year with TutorMate and to Booz Allen for a second $25,000 donation in support of TutorMate. These donations allow us to reach more school districts and students, continue research on our program, and further develop the TutorMate system.

We are excited to have hired our first-ever Chief Technology Officer, Randy Burgess. Randy brings more than 15 years of web application development to Innovations for Learning. His first goal is to make the TutorMate system more reliable for the 2014-15 school year – something all tutors will appreciate!

Finally, if you haven’t seen our new 15-minute advanced training video on how to better integrate your TutorMate sessions with your teacher’s classroom instruction, we recommend that you do so soon. It will help you to help your student become a better reader and give you more context and understanding of how your tutoring sessions fit into the overall reading education of your student. Click here to view the video on Advanced Tutoring Strategies.

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Tutoring Tip: You can still engage your student even when you can’t share the screen You can still engage your student even when you can't synchronize your screens

data connection (the hourglass is on too long, the reset button isn’t working, the synching isn’t working), you can still read one of the first four books of the student’s current reading level with your student. These books are printed in a binder near the student’s laptop and are available in a PDF in your tutor portal.

Beyond reading a few of these stories with your student, there are other things you can do to help him/her with language skills, even without synchronized screens. Simply engaging in conversation can go a long way, as many students may not get much uninterrupted one-on-one time with an adult. Conversing with someone who is caring and articulate is always beneficial to young children.

To keep your student engaged and make productive use of your session, you can ask the student to get a book from the classroom and read aloud to you. Or ask the student to look around the room and name something that starts with the letter “D.” Ask more questions about it. Or ask your student what foods start with “B” and then talk about foods and letters and sounds some more. (What color is it? Who eats it? Where does it grow? What else starts with that letter or sound?) Anything creative and engaging is valuable and helps increase your student’s vocabulary and language ability.