In D.C., a teacher and volunteer tutors from Thomson Reuters are a happy match

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Caitlin Natale helps student Angel Perry get started with TutorMate

Employees from the Thomson Reuters have banded together to help Washington, D.C., schoolchildren learn to read through Innovations for Learning’s TutorMate program.

And the group from the global news and financial-data organization has been greeted by one enthusiastic teacher.

Caitlin Natale, who teaches 1st grade at Aiton Elementary, was so thrilled to have the help of the volunteers — who will tutor the children long-distance, communicating with the classroom over their workplace computers and telephones — that she wrote this email to say hello. (Student names have been removed.)

Good Evening,

I wanted to take a second to introduce myself as well as my students. However, first I want to say THANK YOU!  I am so excited that you all have volunteered to read with/tutor my students.  I’m not sure how much you know about my class so I wanted to give you a little bit of background information.

My name is Caitlin Natale and I teach 1st Grade at Aiton Elementary School in Washington DC. Aiton Elementary School is a priority school and one of the 40 lowest performing schools in DCPS.

We are a Title1 School, 100% Free and Reduced Lunch, and our student population is 100% African American.  Our literacy rate is severely low and our students need a lot of help and support with their reading.

The students who I have chosen to work with you all are students who are struggling but close to being proficient readers.  Some are closer than others, but I believe with your help and support they will realize how much fun reading can be which will motivate them to practice reading.

Below is a little information about each child.  I don’t mean to overwhelm you but I know how helpful it can be to know a little bit about the voice on the other end of the phone!

These kids will definitely look forward to you phone call each week.  If there is anything you need – questions, comments, concerns – PLEASE let me know!  I look forward to working with you all and thank you again!

 — Caitlin Natale

[Student 1] – Close to becoming a proficient reader and a very smart young man when he applies himself.  He is also very good at math.  He has some issues with staying out of trouble and he likes to be the class clown.  He loves the attention.  Any positive reinforcement will keep him on the right track.

[Student 2] – New to Aiton ES this year.  My only “proficient” reader according to beginning of the year data.  She loves to talk and share what is going on in her life.

[Student 3] – New to Aiton ES this year.  She struggles with self esteem issues but is very bright.  She is close to becoming a proficient reader.  She lives with her mother who puts a big emphasis on education.

[Student 4] – Youngest of three.  She has quite the attitude, but when she is engaged in her learning she gets excited and tries really hard to do her best.  She can be very sweet and will love any attention given to her!

The Reuters staffers were clearly charmed by the introduction. One of them, Sara Barakat, sent this reply:

Hi Caitlin – I’m so excited about tutoring – and these kids are certainly lucky to have you for a teacher. You are so involved and enthusiastic, and I’m thrilled to be part of this program!

Thanks so much for this background information.I am the coordinator for this Reuters team, so if you need anything from us, please let me know!

Thanks again for allowing us to be a part of these young lives!

— Sara

Ms. Natale was so pleased about the Thomson Reuters response that she just had to share her emails with the national coordinator for TutorMate, Heather Kamenear:

I just wanted you to know that you have an enthusiastic team from Thomson Reuters!  It is so nice to have all the tutors from one place.

My students are not only going to enjoy this experience but they need all the help and support they can get so I know how much they will benefit academically.

Just wanted to say thank you for putting together such a great team!

 — Caitlin Natale

“Glad to hear it,” Heather replied. “You deserve a lot of the credit and recognition yourself for going above and beyond in this program. I know tutors love being assigned to your class because you are so dedicated and communicative.”

Ms. Natale’s outreach to the Thomson Reuters volunteers was extraordinary, Heather says. “She went to all this trouble to send her tutors individual paragraphs about each of their students, which is not something we asked her to do.”

Ms. Natale, who worked with TutorMate volunteers last year, as well, “makes a real effort to communicate with her tutors and keep them apprised of anything that comes up,” Heather adds. “When teachers communicate, it makes tutors feel good and appreciated,  maybe more than they otherwise would.”

Tutoring started in Ms. Natale’s class last week.

Photo: Tahra Tibbs

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