Minnesota Reading Corps & Minnesota Math Corps Blog

Coming Back to School

Guest Writer: Maria Jimenez Perez, Math Enrichment Tutor at Middleton Elementary in Woodbury, MN

I worked as a math and science teacher at the high school level for nine years. My family had just moved from Puerto Rico to Minnesota and we had decided I was not going to work the first year to help the kids with the transition. One day, I was volunteering at their school, and I saw a Math Corps sticker at the main office’s window. I was intrigued, took a picture, came home and did some research. I thought that it was a great opportunity—especially when I couldn’t teach in Minnesota since I didn’t have a teaching license. Plus, I had seen firsthand how my 9th graders lacked basic skills needed before taking algebra. I kind of saw it as a sign.

Now, I learn so much every day—my students are great teachers! I have discovered myself, my passions, my strengths and my areas of opportunity. But I think the best part about being a tutor with Math Corps is being witness of the incredible transformation these students make. They start off a little hesitant and reluctant, then they start to understand what we are doing, having fun with it, and their confidence levels go up the roof. At the end of the year they all say that they didn’t know math could be fun! Not only does their confidence improve, their attitude toward math changes—which I think is a great thing!

The relationships we build with our students are also so important. One time we were working on the box method for division in our sessions. One of my students asked if she could apply this method to the decimal division problems problems she was doing in class—they had a test that day and she was not feeling ready. I didn’t know if the process would work, but we tried it together and it did! A few days later I came to my desk, and her graded test was on it. She had gotten a B+. I think this was the first passing grade she had gotten in her math class. I thought the teacher had left it there for me to see, but when I asked her she said she had not left it—my student left it there for me to see! She was so proud of her grade, she brought the test over to me first instead of taking it home for her parents to see.

Serving as a Minnesota Math Corps tutor has been one of the most enriching opportunities I’ve had. You don’t have to be a teacher or have experience teaching/tutoring. Anybody with a will to help, to learn and to make a difference can do this! If you are not sure, just give it a try—you will not regret it!

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Why We’re Participating in MLK Day of Service

 

 

MLK Day of Service, a federal holiday created to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy of service, not only brings whole communities together, but also gives AmeriCorps members and alumni a unique opportunity to come together in the name of helping others.

For Dr. King, giving back meant strengthening the bonds of community and working toward something greater than ourselves. In honor of Dr. King’s vision, we asked some of the AmeriCorps and PeaceCorps alumni who now work to support Reading Corps and Math Corps what MLK Day of Service means to them. Their answers were inspiring:

 

Ryan Kjesbo-Johnson
“Serving others is a chance to open our hearts to the struggles of those around us. Some of the most transforming moments of my life have happened while serving others—whether it was teaching someone how to apply for
a job each day in AmeriCorps, to filling bags of food at feed my starving children with my kids, to teaching reproductive health skills in Uganda to young men or helping push strangers’ cars out of the snow. Serving others
opens our hearts, and creates a tapestry of understanding and connection that does not happen if we merely pass by each other. This tapestry of understanding and connection defines the beloved community that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about and lived out.

Service on this day honors a man, and a movement, that was driven on the backs of service to others. From driving neighbors to work during the Montgomery bus boycott, to helping comfort bodies broken by the batons on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to church members hosting visitors of the movement in their homes, the Civil Rights movement was defined by sacrifice and service to others. On this day take time to honor the legacy of Dr. King by serving your neighbors, and let that spark of service create a wildfire of service throughout the year.”

 
 

Alison Zellmer
“When I reflect on the MLK Day of Service and why it is so important, this quote from Martin Luther King Jr. always comes to mind, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.’ I think one of the greatest ways you can share love to your community, your school, your neighbors, to anyone is through service. We honor Martin Luther King Jr. on this day by doing just that.”

Jenny Rangel
“I remember listening to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech when I was younger. His words and actions left a huge impression on me and opened my eyes up to the inequality in the world. He challenged the status quo and believed that everyone can be great and make an impact no matter how small. MLK Day of Service is a time to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and to give back to the community. I am participating to honor Dr. King’s legacy and do my part to make this world a better place.”

Megan Peterson
“I consider myself lucky to have grown up in a family that valued service to one’s community, and it has led me to always try to give back. I have had the opportunity to serve at soup kitchens, help build playgrounds, volunteer at the local food shelf and lead excited parents through Toys for Tots gift selection. Perhaps most impactful for me, I have served as a Reading Corps tutor helping to improve confidence and skills in children. The hugs, smiles and genuine happiness to see me every day that I experienced from these students will live with me forever. MLK Day of Service is an opportunity for me to be intentional about giving back and serving my community in new ways. I encourage you to join me in helping to make the world a better place this MLK Day.”

 

Andrew Mueller
“A day of service to me means showing as a community that we both celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and we recognize that there is a lot of work left to do to create a just and equitable society for everyone. I participate in service because ground level work is as important as systems change work and directly serving the community expands my perspective and often the best relationships are formed when serving others.”

 

Chris Erickson
“For me, MLK Day of Service is a chance to do something for others in a way that’s outside my day-to-day tutoring role. It’s a chance to find a service program, organization or opportunity that speaks to my passions, and give back to others. This was also a great way for me to connect with other AmeriCorps members, and people from the community at large who had similar interests and personal service passions. Now, years later I’m so grateful for my experiences in AmeriCorps as a Reading Corps member, and still find joy from taking part in meaningful service projects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

 

 

If you’re interested in joining us for an MLK Day of Service project, check out our last blog post to view the full list of opportunities and learn more about getting involved.





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In Honor of Helping Others: MLK Day of Service

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” No matter who you are or where you’re from, Dr. King believed that everyone had the ability to make a difference by helping others. In honor of his legacy and passion for serving others, MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

As AmeriCorps members and alumni, you’ve committed your time to service. We hope you’ll join other Reading Corps and Math Corps members, alumni and staff Monday, January 21, 2019 for this truly special day of service in order to better our communities and the lives of those around us.

Below is a list of service activities Minnesota Math Corps and Minnesota Reading Corps will be participating in. If you’re interested in giving back during MLK Day of Service, please reach out to amy.kasch-vanek@servetogrow.org for more information.

Opportunities to serve:

8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast w/ reflection and discussion – SCSU – St. Cloud

8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. — Volunteer at the MLK march – Rochester Mayo Civic Center – Rochester

8:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast w/ reflection and discussion – LSS Centrum – Minneapolis

8:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast w/ reflection and discussion – Brooklyn Park Community Center – Brooklyn Park

8:45 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. — Volunteer at the MLK march – Washington Rec Center – Duluth

10:00 a.m. – noon — Painting inspirational MLK quotes – Miltona Community Center – Miltona

12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. — Packaging food with Second Harvest Heartland – Brooklyn Park

12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. — Holiday party for those in Memory Care – Rakhma Homes – Minneapolis

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. — Painting inspirational MLK quotes – Miltona Community Center – Miltona

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. — Birdfeeder Workshop – Home Depot – St. Cloud

*Limited registration

1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. — Volunteer opportunities at Minnesota State University, Mankato – Mankato

*Includes Dr. Suess Birthday/Read Across America, letters to the troops, cards for children at Children’s hospital

 

Not located near one of these activities or would like another way to participate? Tutors can also use MLK Day of Service as a day of reflection on Dr. King’s legacy and their own service experiences by completing activities in the web-based supplemental training bank.

Or find even more events happening around Minnesota here or through the InterCorps Council of Minnesota here.*

 

*Note: Current tutors – Be sure to check in with your Program Manager for hours guidance and to fill out an SOR before participating in outside service opportunities.

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Minneapolis School Breaks “High Priority” Barrier: Students Make Great Gains with Reading Corps Pilot Program

 

Current 2018-19 Scholar Coaches and staff

 

Exceptional things are happening at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School (NSJ) in North Minneapolis. Determined to help their learners succeed, NSJ has developed a multi-faceted approach to raising student achievement, with great success. Once deemed a “High Priority” school, a category which identifies the lowest-performing schools in the state, NSJ has now been removed from that list!

With the extraordinary commitment of their community partners and stakeholders (including Minnesota Reading Corps) NSJ has made incredible gains, including doubling 3rd grade reading proficiency in the span of three years. It was just a few short years ago that we began speaking with NSJ about developing a new kind of model to help better meet the needs of their students: the Total Learning Classroom (TLC) program. Now in its 4th year, the TLC program has grown to reach eight schools in Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Cloud.

The TLC program is unique in that our tutors—called Scholar Coaches—are embedded in K-3 classrooms and partner closely with the teacher to support classroom instruction and deliver 1:1 and small group reading interventions to students. “The 1:1 connection between the Scholar Coach and the classroom teacher enables daily conversations to happen about how students are doing,” NSJ principal Amy Luehmann said. “It makes a big difference.”

This partnership also gives the Scholar Coach the opportunity to integrate the teacher’s lessons into their tutoring sessions, which gives students an added learning boost. “The TLC model really was beneficial in that I was able to see what was happening in the classroom and connect that to the tutoring interventions,” Colleen Denice-Rossiter, a third-year Scholar Coach at NSJ, said. “I benefited so much from watching [the students’] progress and also just watching their whole attitude change.”

So far this year, over 400 students have been served by Scholar Coaches and 80% of students with six or more weeks of tutoring are achieving at or above the rate necessary to reach grade level targets by the spring. With the continued success of students at NSJ, we hope to partner with more Minnesota schools so that students across the state can achieve such incredible results!

The TLC program will be recruiting Scholar Coaches for the 2019-20 school year starting in January. To learn more about the program or how you can get involved, contact Andrew Mueller.

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Reading Corps Alum to be Honored with January Spirit of Service Award

Spirit of Service Award honoree Kristi Jo Sanders

​“It’s just simple little things you can do to help make tiny little things better for your community.”

Kristi Jo Sanders began her Reading Corps journey during the 2009-10 school year at Lincoln K-8 Choice School in Rochester. After receiving her K-12 reading license and teaching preschool for a few years, Kristi Jo had her “aha moment” when she realized all her students weren’t experiencing that same connection with books at home and in school. As she was looking to continue teaching, she found that becoming a tutor not only opened up new professional opportunities for her, but also gave her a different perspective she could use in her future career. “As a classroom teacher you make a big impact, but as a tutor…the one-on-one chance you have to work with kids allowed me to develop a relationship with kids and get to know them as readers on a different level,” Kristi Jo said.

After her service, Kristi Jo was hired on as a Reading Specialist at Jefferson Elementary School, where she continues serving students as the Internal Coach. A major proponent of community involvement, Kristi Jo also works to collect school supplies for the Running Start program, heads up the school’s backpack program, and helped build a school kitchen for children in Tanzania, Africa—a service trip she hopes to replicate soon. Always working to educate parents and families on the importance of reading at home, Kristi Jo hopes to encourage others to give back, even in small ways: “It’s your chance to make a difference and it’s a difference that’s going to follow a kid through the rest of their life.”

For your continued impact in the classroom and beyond, it’s our privilege to honor you with the Spirit of Service Award. Thank you, Kristi Jo! If you’re interested in making a difference in your community, apply to become a Reading Corps tutor at www.readingandmath.net. Be sure to apply by December 14th to start in January!

 

About the Spirit of Service Awards

Launched in 2018 to celebrate alumni and commemorate the 15th anniversary of Reading Corps and 10th anniversary of Math Corps, The Spirit of Service Awards honor individuals who continue to embody the AmeriCorps pledge as alumni. Honorees were celebrated as part of Institute in August, October and January.

Recipients during the 2018-19 program year include: Sarah Warren, Mary Borrell and Lindsay Taute, James Magee and Kristi Jo Sanders.

 

 
 

 

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Ditch Your Debt with Your AmeriCorps Service! Do You Qualify For Public Student Loan Forgiveness?


You’ve graduated from school, you’ve earned your degree and now you’re looking for the perfect job to launch your career. But the end of college also means it’s time to start paying back those student loans. Have you started thinking about your repayment plan? Did you know your service as a full-time AmeriCorps tutor can help qualify you for public student loan forgiveness?

Managed by the federal government, the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program forgives student loans for those employed full-time (more than 30 hours) in a public service position or by an eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofit who make 120 eligible payments over a 10 year period. If you plan to continue work in the public service or nonprofit space and are interested in applying, your service as a full-time AmeriCorps tutor may count toward these requirements!

Already applied for PSLF and were denied? There’s more good news! In May, the government announced the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which allows borrowers whose applications were previously denied due to an ineligible payment plan a second chance at the now $350 million in available funds. If you previously applied for PSLF and would like your application reconsidered, follow the instructions listed here.

Tutors must be making student loan payments while in service to qualify. Your Education Award received at the end of your term of service may be used toward these payments, but the recommended payment amount may differ depending on your participation in the Income-Based Repayment plan.

For full details on how your AmeriCorps service affects your eligibility, learn more at the Corporation for National and Community Service website. For general details on the PSLF program and for links to apply, visit the Office of Federal Student Aid website.

Have any lingering questions? Give us a call at 866.859.2825 or email us at recruitment@servetogrow.org and we’ll be happy to help!


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Reading Corps Alum Receives October Spirit of Service Award

Spirit of Service Award honoree James Magee

“To work one on one with kids who just needed that extra push was really important to me.”

What better way to celebrate our anniversary (15 years of Reading Corps, 10 years of Math Corps) than recognizing the amazing achievements of our alumni? The Spirit of Service Award is presented to alumni in recognition of their efforts to live the AmeriCorps pledge and continue to focus on community after completing their service.

The first Spirit of Service Awards were presented at August Institute to alums Sarah Warren, Mary Borrell and Lindsay Taute. In honor of October Institute, we were proud to recognize Reading Corps alumni James Magee.

After completing his degree in classical music performance, James was drawn to the idea of becoming a teacher. While working as a paraprofessional at Royal Oaks Elementary school in Woodbury, he learned about Reading Corps and thought it might be a great pathway to becoming a teacher. James served as a Reading Corps tutor in 2009-10 and went on to earn his teaching license and complete an MA in education. After teaching kindergarten for six years, he now works as an instructional coach for South Washington County Schools.

“[Reading Corps] wasn’t a program that was looking out for itself; the kids were the primary goal the entire time,” James said. “That level of care and concern for each student was something I was able to take with me and adjust my instructional strategies moving forward.”

James cites his AmeriCorps experience as a driving force behind his desire to do meaningful work in his community and beyond. He has participated in global service by working to construct buildings and gather curriculum materials for primary students in Rwanda, and frequently volunteers locally with his children to support education. A passionate advocate for service, James says, “If you’re not willing to invest in education, you’re not willing to invest in your community’s success.”

Congratulations, James! We thank you for your service to Reading Corps and ongoing leadership in both the classroom and the community. We continue to be amazed by the incredible work our alumni do after service, and we look forward to honoring even more alumni during January Institute!


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Principal Spotlight: Jason Harris

Jason Harris, Principal
South Jr. High School, Saint Cloud, Minnesota

With nearly 1,000 students in his building, Jason Harris wanted to increase his capacity to serve students who needed extra support. He says Math Corps made perfect sense. “Not all kids thrive in a classroom,” he explains. “Some kids – and specifically the kids we serve in Math Corps – really need that individualized attention and the focused practice.”

Harris notes that by the time students get to junior high, too many have decided that they can’t do math – this is a notion Math Corps tutors help dismantle. Working with a tutor, students begin to build both their skills and confidence. “When we pull the data, we see most kids are getting to the next level,” Harris says. “The extra support really helps them get off the bubble.”

Over the past five years, South Junior High has typically had two Math Corps tutors devoted to working with students during the school day. In addition to tutoring, Math Corps tutors also assist students after school with homework and help support the larger learning community. “We’ve had college students, parents and retirees serve with Math Corps at South,” Harris notes. “They do a great job working with our students.”

Harris and his team collaborate with the district and Math Corps to promote the opportunity to serve and let people know their students need tutors. “We get it on our district website, in our school newsletter, we distribute flyers and really get out there to connect with St. Cloud State University students as well.”

Asked what he’d tell his colleagues who don’t already have Math Corps in their building, his response is quick. “Go ahead and get a Math Corps tutor! Why would you pass up a resource that can help your kids learn and achieve in math?”

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We’re Looking for Great People: Help Us Find Them and Earn a Free Jacket!

Can’t get enough of Reading Corps and Math Corps? Constantly telling your friends to join our dedicated community? Want to ensure more Minnesota children have the help they need to build strong skills in reading and math?

Turn your passion for our programs into perks with our referral promotion! Refer a new applicant and receive a limited edition black softshell jacket.

Here’s how it works:

1) Tell a friend about Reading Corps or Math Corps!
We’re looking for great new applicants. Know someone who is looking for a way to give back during retirement, needs experience for their teaching degree, or who is just passionate about helping children succeed? Share how service has been impactful for you and about all the great work our tutors are doing across Minnesota—they’re sure to be inspired!

2) Direct them to apply at www.readingandmath.net
New applicants can search for opportunities at schools near them by clicking “Apply Now” and navigating the dropdown menu options to find a position that suits them best.

3) Remind them to list your name on their application
When they fill out their online application, there will be a place for them to list how they heard about our programs. Make sure they list your name so we know who referred them!

4) Check your email inbox
After your candidate completes Institute, we’ll be reaching out to you to confirm your jacket size and preferred shipping address, so be sure to keep an eye on your inbox (and your Spam folder!) so you don’t miss our message.

5) Wear your jacket proudly!
Thank you for being such a great advocate for Minnesota learners and helping to spread the word about service. Wear your new jacket with pride!

And that’s it! Still have a few questions? Email us at recruitment@servetogrow.org or call 866.859.2825 and we’ll be happy to help.

Alumni, current tutors, coaches, principals and staff are eligible for this promotion. New applicants only.
 
 
 
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Reading Corps Alum Awarded Duluth’s 20 Under 40

Recently, Reading Corps alum Jodi Broadwell was recognized as one of Duluth’s 20 Under 40, an annual award honoring local leaders for their community impact and involvement.

Jodi first discovered Reading Corps when she spotted a flyer while dropping her son off at school. A single parent who not only was juggling multiple jobs and a preschool student, but also going to school herself, Jodi thought serving during the same hours her son was in school was just the solution she needed.

And it was while serving as the first preschool literacy tutor at Laura MacArthur Elementary’s Head Start program that Jodi found her passion for helping those in need. “I had never served on a committee before Reading Corps, and now I organize events all the time,” Jodi said. “that introduction into civic engagement is important.”

After Reading Corps, Jodi was inspired to get involved even more, serving on the board of directors for Community Action Duluth, the League of Women’s Voters-Duluth, Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Inc, and Ecolibrium3. She has also been a caretaker for a Big Red Bookshelf for five years, served on the Duluth-Superior Pride Committee, and is a city commissioner for the Duluth Public Arts Commission.

“When you’re doing work in the community and making a difference, it makes for more meaningful life experiences,” Jodi said, “and sometimes it might benefit the person doing the volunteering more than the person on the receiving end.”

Serving as a Reading Corps tutor at a Head Start had a major impact on Jodi’s life, spawning a lifelong love for ensuring children and families living in impoverished conditions have the resources they need to succeed. Currently, she runs Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative, a small nonprofit that strengthens the community by connecting families who care about children. Though her projects might include parent support groups, free family activities or a new day care center, Jodi has never forgotten the importance of reading. “Everything we do [with the kids] has some sort of early literacy component, whether it’s the whiteboards, signing in each day, or reading aloud…and we’re always encouraging parents to have those conversations with their children.”

With community service being such an important part of her life, what advice would Jodi give to those looking for a way to make a change? Get involved! “I really encourage people to embrace a national AmeriCorps service because it’s a wonderful experience—and looks great on a resume too!”

An alphabet mural Jodi and her students made during her 2nd year at Laura MacArthur Elementary, which has been hanging at UMD Children’s Place for ten years!

 

 
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