Any teacher will probably tell you that the first year is tough.
But for Kimberly Rosario, a seventh-grade teacher at James Lick Middle School, the usual new job jitters turned into much more when her class size suddenly increase from 23 to 33 students.
Ms. Rosario wanted to be sure her students still received the kind of individualized attention they need to excel, so she partnered with the San Francisco Education Fund in 2016-17. That partnership brought her nine of our Math Volunteers along with an educator grant to grow her teaching skills.
Each week during the school day her volunteers could be seen floating around the classroom to help students work out tricky problems. Volunteer Jesus Lopez, who wants to become a teacher, spoke Spanish with many of her students and helped put them at ease.
“It allows for other students to not be afraid to ask questions in Spanish,” Jesus said.
Volunteer Dennis Biroscak tutored students both during class and in our after-school program. “When he stays after school he’s working with my English Language Learner students and newcomer students,” Ms. Rosario said. “Having that one-on-one interaction has encouraged them to come after school and ask questions.”
Dennis once worked as a programmer at NASA, a life story that never failed to impress the students. He talked to the seventh-graders about his space days while helping out in Ms. Rosario’s classroom during the annual Hour of Code, which works to introduce students to programming.
“It was really cool to see my students engaged in something close to mathematics,” Ms. Rosario said.
The Education Fund asks volunteers to commit one hour, once a week, but Ms. Rosario’s volunteers went far beyond that. Dennis helped Ms. Rosario plan her lessons. Her volunteer Franklin Niemi increased his time to three days a week. Jesus dedicated a full day each Friday.
“The best thing about it is when the kids respond — when I’m able to see that someone understands something that they didn’t understand before,” Dennis said. “The other day, we were teaching ratios, and I was showing kids how to do it in groups, and after a few examples they could do it themselves. Then they started having confidence that they could actually handle the situation and know what to do.”
In addition to teaming up with volunteers, Ms. Rosario also received one of our grants for teachers, which sent her and a fellow first-year educator to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference. There the teachers learned about how to help their students, and especially English Language Learners, better understand word problems, as well as well as tips for implementing components of Common Core math. With the grant they received access to a library of NCTM resources that they and their department could use in their classrooms.
“My first year was very, very challenging. I had to go through a lot of changes without a lot of support,” Ms. Rosario said. “Without having the Education Fund in my classroom, without having the volunteers in my classroom, I don’t know if I would have been as successful.”
As a volunteer, you can make a big difference in the lives of teachers and their students. Find out more about becoming a volunteer in San Francisco’s public schools