Beyond The Classroom Walls
Midland students partnering with FPS through tutoring program
Midland University students are learning that you don’t always have to be in a classroom setting to be an effective teacher. Through a partnership with Fremont Public Schools, Midland students have been given the opportunity to serve as tutors to FPS students who are learning online.
Theresa Ferg, Associate Professor of Education at Midland, said about 25 Midland students are currently providing tutoring to FPS students of all grade levels. Tutoring sessions take place Mondays and Thursdays with both morning and evening sessions. “They sign up for time slots, indicate what grade levels they would like to work with, and what areas they are comfortable with,” Ferg said. “They are compensated as well, so this is a job for them. If they sign up and can’t be there, they have to find a substitute. It’s not just Education majors doing this, but students from across campus. We’re excited to have this many students involved.”
Brent Cudly, Director of Professional Learning and Federal Programs for FPS, said previous partnerships with Midland have been successful for his students, and this tutoring program seemed like another logical step in that partnership. “We try to figure out ways to help our students learn virtually,” Cuddly said. “Theresa and I have worked together before and we thought this would be a great way for our kids to have a great learning experience and for Midland students to gain that teaching experience.”
Any FPS student currently learning online is eligible to take part in the tutoring sessions. An FPS certified teacher sets up the Zoom conference for each session and when a student enters, that teacher finds out what area they need assistance with. They are then placed in a Zoom breakout room with a Midland tutor who has knowledge in that particular area.
Kerry Williams, Associate Professor of Education, says the opportunity for future educators to get face-to-face time with students is invaluable. “You can’t learn to teach without teaching,” Williams said. “And that’s been hard for our students to do this semester as schools aren’t wanting them to teach in person. This gives us an opportunity to get a field-based experience virtually.”
Through her Elementary Math Methods class, Williams’s students are getting the opportunity to teach math virtually to FPS students in grades 1-4. Each Thursday, her students will connect with an FPS student through Zoom to go over various math problems and solutions. “They are using the strategies we taught them, and it’s actually a win-win for us because not only do our students get that teaching experience, but we get to observe them as teachers and give them immediate feedback on what we are seeing,” Williams says.
As a junior Education major, Katlin Vampola appreciates the opportunity to have on-one-on time with a student, even if it has to be done through a computer screen. “I think it’s great preparation for what we will do in the classroom,” she said. “Because you are working online, you often overcompensate because you have to be prepared for anything.”
Vampola says her 45-minute session with a second-grade student presented her the chance to put the student in control of the lesson. “I want the student to be engaged, and listening to me talk for 45 minutes isn’t going to keep them interested,” she said. “I want it to be interactive and one way to do that is for them to lead the discussion. At the end of the lesson, I’ll let them teach me. Sometimes, I will put down an incorrect answer because I want to see if they will catch it.
“It can be hard to get their attention at first, so I’ll ask them questions that don’t have anything to do with school, then lead into the lesson. It’s all part of trying to relate to them as students.”
Midland students were among the first in the country to transition to online learning in March. That experience proves beneficial when it comes to assisting others through the ups and downs of online learning. “Our students know what it’s like and they’ve heard from other students who don’t really like online learning, so they can relate to them,” Ferg said. “Our students are pretty resourceful. I think it’s appealing for them to sit in their own space, get on a computer, and help a student.”
Cudly said just under 600 students across the district are involved in online learning. The tutoring program is in place through the end of the second quarter and if all goes well, it will continue into the spring. “This is uncharted territory for us, so we hope it’s something students and parents will embrace,” he said. “We will try it with virtual learning and if it goes well, we may expand it to everybody.”
He views the partnership as a chance for his students to grow, but also for Midland students to further their teaching skills. “We want to bring people into our profession with experience, and professors want their students to gain that experience, so it’s a perfect blend,” he said. “I view it as a 3-month interview. If we can get them to student-teach, we may end up hiring them.”