Undergrads Explore Teaching with Relay

June 24, 2016

Undergrads Explore Teaching with Relay

College tutors provided one-on-one support to dozens of students in Houston and New Orleans.

In October, Relay announced the creation of Tutor Corps – a tutoring program that gives a diverse group of college students the opportunity to support local K-12 students. Launched in New Orleans and Houston this spring with plans to expand in the future, nearly 70 percent of tutors finished the semester with an interest in a program that would allow them to pursue teacher training while earning a bachelor’s degree in their area of interest.

“Nationwide, there just aren’t enough opportunities for undergraduate students to gain exposure to teaching,” said Shani Dowell, executive director of undergraduate pathways at Relay Graduate School of Education. “In other professions, internships provide meaningful experience as well as compensation. It’s time that all college students who may be interested in teaching are given the same opportunities to explore teaching as a profession.”

Relay Tutor Corps gives local undergraduates the opportunity to work with middle school students in a structured, semester-long tutoring program. Through Tutor Corps, the middle school students receive additional one-on-one academic support, and the college students are exposed to high-quality teacher training while being compensated and continuing with their studies. Opportunities continue through the Relay Summer Experience – a one-month summer school program currently being held in New Orleans in which undergraduates lead whole-class instruction to elementary school students in academic and enrichment activities.

One explicit goal of these programs is to create a more diverse pipeline of future educators; in the initial cohort, approximately 40 percent of tutors identified as Black or Latino, which compares to 18 percent of the current teaching force nationwide. Over 60 percent of the Summer Experience cohort is African-American. A similar number of participants are Pell Grant recipients.

“While I started college with the goal of becoming a teacher, it wasn’t until this spring that I had the chance to actually work with students,” said Ya’Nique Gordon, an education major at the University of Houston. “With Relay’s help, I discovered a passion for working directly with students. Tutor Corps also opened my eyes about the training and experiences that will help me build the skills I’ll need to lead my own classroom.”

The inaugural cohort of Relay Tutor Corps – 23 tutors in New Orleans and 13 tutors in Houston – included undergraduate students from Tulane University, Dillard University, and Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans and Rice University, Texas Southern University, and University of Houston in Houston. Over the course of the spring semester, the tutors’ extra attention and instruction aided dozens of middle school students, supporting academic growth and confidence-building. Reading scores for some students accelerated two times after they had access to a tutor.

“Being a tutor made me reconsider the possibilities that studying English and sociology offers,” said Madeline Jones, a rising junior from Tulane University originally from Falmouth, Maine. “Joining Relay’s Tutor Corps gave me the chance to share my love of learning with local children, hopefully igniting their curiosity.”

For the Tutor Corps program, Relay partnered with KIPP in both New Orleans and Houston in order to bring undergraduate students to local classrooms. For the Summer Experience Program, Relay has partnered with FirstLine Schools in New Orleans. Over 20 percent of students participating in the Relay Summer Experience in New Orleans this summer have already completed the Relay Tutor Corps. By participating in both programs, undergraduates receive comprehensive training in different teacher skill sets, as well as the opportunity to work with both elementary and middle school students. Over the long term, Relay’s aim is that these hands-on experiences working with K-12 students will inspire more young people to pursue teaching.