School resources offered at Redwood

May 27, 2020

The Redwood Peer Tutoring program was founded over 30 years ago, according to Skip Lovelady, a science teacher and the current Peer Tutor teacher. Before Lovelady took over the Peer Tutoring program nine years ago, it was run by the counselors.

“A student would come in and get a slip and request a tutor. The counselor in charge would then match it up with someone who had signed up to be a tutor in that subject,” Lovelady said. “A message would then go out to both students to meet in the library on Monday at 3:30.  There were many issues with that because you can only imagine that not both of the students would show up in a given day.”

When Lovelady took over the program, he made it a drop-in service instead, and believes the system is much simpler and easier now.

“We have people who sign up to be peer tutors and they show up to the library and are there, and anyone who needs help just has to walk in and find me,” Lovelady said.

Despite these changes, Lovelady says there are fewer students in the program now, compared to nine years ago.

“Interestingly enough as the school’s population of students has gone from 1,400 to 2,000 in the past nine years, both the number of students making themselves available to be tutors and the number of students asking for help has actually gone down, not up,” Lovelady said.

Charlie Moore, a senior at Redwood, was a peer tutor for his first semester sophomore year, but never got the opportunity to tutor another student. 

“It was once a week for an hour after school for the whole semester, but I didn’t see anyone come in to get help with someone they didn’t already know,” Moore said. “There were always six to 10 peer tutors and about half were tutoring [on any given day].”

Lovelady believes the low attendance is due to students being more involved in other extracurriculars and just not having the time to devote to peer tutoring.

“There are fewer students who have free time to come and get academic help and there are fewer students who have free time to help other kids,” Lovelady said.

Lovelady still believes in the benefits peer tutoring can bring for both students involved. 

“[Peer tutoring] is really different [from professional tutoring]. When you get a kid talking to a kid, they break it down,” Lovelady said. “A lot of the time, and this is something professional tutors cannot do, the peer tutor will ask who they have for the class and can say, ‘Oh I had her’ and it really quickly escalates into a much different conversation.”

Panzardi also thinks it is helpful to have someone who won’t judge you and who is available to turn to for help in difficult classes.

“I definitely get intimidated to ask questions, so for me, its nice to have a friend [tutor me] whom I’m completely comfortable around because I feel like there’s no judgement and I’m not afraid to ask questions which I think might be stupid,” Panzardi said.

Lovelady also attests that students can be more valuable teachers to their peers compared to a professional tutor.

“As good as many teachers are, we don’t do a lot of one-on-one with our students. What I see in peer tutors is this simple yet complex relationship where they know exactly what the kid needs,” Lovelady said.

Although students can benefit from the program, Moore believes that it needs to be adjusted or changed for that to happen.

“There’s something going on there that people didn’t feel that they could ask for help, or at least they didn’t know how,” Moore said.

No instructors or peer tutors were able to provide student sources that use(d) peer tutoring for this article. For the students who have been able to receive peer tutoring, Lovelady has seen improvement and change and believes it’s an unparalleled opportunity.

“The kid on the receiving end also seems much more relaxed and willing to get help from the junior or senior rather than talking to an adult,” Lovelady said. “I’m the first one to admit, in many cases, more than most people would think, peer tutoring is better [than professional tutoring].”

Peer tutoring is also beneficial for families because it is free. All the student has to do is show up to the library Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday from 3:30-4:30pm. 

Photo courtesy of Redwood High School.

While peer tutoring is a free resource, it’s not the only one. Peer tutoring is an example of academic tutoring, for a specific class or subject, while The College and Career Center (CCC) offers ACT/SAT help and advice. Opportunities for this include SMART period workshops and one-on-one appointments to go over ACT or SAT planning and college applications. While Becky Bjursten, the College and Career Center specialist, does not actually tutor students for the ACT or SAT, she helps facilitate it.

“I love helping students with problems big and small, whether it’s how to fill out a certain part of an application or problem solving simple questions or problem solving the bigger questions. It’s just fun to support the students and get answers for them,” Bjursten said.

In terms of ACT and SAT help, Bjursten helps organize mock tests every September and January, as well as subject tests every March for sophomores and juniors. 

“Compass [Education Group] testing comes and donates those tests to us and I’m there to help make sure kids have access to a full length practice test. They have all the benefits of a private testing company without the cost at least a couple times a year,” Bjursten said.

Not only that, but Bjursten is always open to helping students in and out of school hours.

“I have a lot of test materials in my room, so lots of booklets and the official ones that are put out by ACT and SAT…I also get a lot of people’s sample tests they didn’t use,” Bjusten said.

Additionally, Bjursten is open to supporting students by helping them find other resources, such as paid professional tutors. While she recognizes that it is not right for everyone, she likes to give people options.

“I also keep a list of tutors on the CCC website so people can look at those options and talk to me about those options; They range from free online resources to $300 per tutoring sessions, so I like to make sure students have all of that information before they make a choice that’s right for them,” Bjursten said.

Through Redwood, students have access to numerous free resources such as the College and Career Center for test help, counselors for planning, peer tutors for subject help, and SMART periods for meetings with teachers.

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