Landings residents, volunteer as tutors

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By Diana Colson

Many Landings residents have chosen to put volunteer energies into tutoring children, among them Sheryl Lindholm, Michael Kurtz, and Eileen Kirk. The time required is small, but the potential impact is enormous! It is important work, because one-on-one tutors are in position to make a real difference in young lives.

Back to Basics Tutoring Program is run by Church of the Palms to provide supplemental academic assistance to students in nearby schools. This program was started in January of 1992 and began with only 12 students from two schools. Today it serves more than 230 students throughout the school year, kids drawn from over 30 Sarasota schools.

Students are referred to this program by classroom teachers, school principals, school counselors, students, friends, and various agencies. Back to Basics tutors work with the same child for a minimum of one hour a week. They help with homework, book reports, test reviews, and life lessons.

Tutoring is done at the Church after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, between the hours of 2:30 and 6:30 pm, depending on student schedules. The Church is located at 3224 Bee Ridge Road, and there are lots of resources available for tutors to draw from.  Cupboards are full of books and materials! Sheryl Lindholm, a former school teacher, was impressed when she discovered the program. She now works with children in the 1st. 2nd and 3rd grades, while her late husband, Rich Lindholm, tutored high school students in physics and math.

Landings resident Mike Kurtz has been tutoring here for 12 or 13 years and is enthusiastic about the experience.  “All the directors have been very accommodating.  If you go away for a holiday, that’s fine. They will find a substitute for you.  Every year there is a one-hour orientation where you learn how to sign in and how to write comments for follow up. Everyone is made to feel comfortable with the protocols. You are free to select the grade level you prefer to tutor as well as the subject or subjects. The director makes every effort to have tutoring be as welcoming and hassle-free as possible.”

Mike is currently in his 4th year of working with the same student. “His parents and I hit it off, and we are all very happy to continue! It makes a productive experience for us all. I work with him on English, Vocabulary, Composition, History, and Civics. These are the courses in which the student feels the most need, and happily the ones with which I am most comfortable.” Mike majored in Political Science in college.

Math is the subject most in demand, especially higher math. Mike is comfortable teaching Math up to 6th grade, but turns higher levels, such as Calculus, over to others.

According to Sheryl Lindholm, it is easy to become a tutor at COP. People may register as volunteers by going to, click on the Youth and Families tab, then click on the link for Tutoring. (As in all schools, there will be a background check, of course.) Again, being a tutor requires as little as one hour a week of your time, and you stay with the same child all year.

Children receive a snack when they first come in and settle down.  A small tuition covers these snacks, but no child is refused because of their financial situation. The generous support of Church of the Palms (COP) provides for facilities, personnel expenses, computers, supplies for tutoring such as paper, pencils and workbooks for ideas for tutors, mailings (stamps), food, drinks and paper products for two pot-luck dinners, folders and labels for students, as well as miscellaneous supplies.

Anne Montgomery and the late Ann Fenton both also served as Back to Basics tutors from the Landings. Volunteers number more than 100, and many are not members of COP. Both snowbirds and year-round residents are welcome, and substitute tutors are always needed! A folder is kept for every child documenting the activities they have accomplished, making it easy for substitutes to pick up the ball.

Since each tutor works with the same student all year, volunteers develop a relationship with their students. Sheryl’s young client was astonished to find that she was not salaried. “You mean you do these things without getting paid?”

Eileen Kirk has been tutoring at COP for five years. She works with students of any grade level who speak English as a second language. Eileen once taught French and Spanish in Philadelphia but is not required to speak the same primary language as her student. Instead, she has been trained in the techniques of teaching English as a second language, and it is a wonderful approach with proven success!

Back to Basics program can always use more tutors! Although there are currently 100, many students are on the wait list, hoping to enter the program as more tutors become available.  Director Linda Evans welcomes applicants. You may call  941- 924-1323 and ask for Linda to find out more about the program. Remember, becoming a tutor only requires one hour of your time on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons!

In the words of one parent: “My son bonded immediately with his tutor and the help she gave him…. I cannot say enough…what a wonderful program this is!” There is a potluck for families and teachers at the end of the year, a joyous event that brings families and mentors together.

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