When Lorie Fitzgerald saw how her daughter Angelina struggled to keep up with her third-grade classwork at Copper Creek Elementary School in Deer Valley Unified School District, she knew she had to find a way to help her student learn.
“Angelina has a developmental delay, because of this, she has struggled to close the learning gap,” Fitzgerald said. “For so long Angelina was just sitting in class, but not fully understanding what was going on.”
While many schools offer before, during or after-school academic tutoring to help students learn who need more assistance, some schools do not have the resources to provide that service. That leaves parents with the decision of how and where to seek help for their child.
Fitzgerald turned to LearnerLink, which partners with school districts to provide quality certified teachers to help students with personalized learning in K-12 subject areas, skill development, enrichment and college prep through in-person interaction and online-learning opportunities.
“Because of (her tutor) Nicki (Keagle) and LearnerLink, Angelina is able to really participate in class and understands what she is being taught,” Fitzgerald said.
Video by Huntington University students: LearnerLink tutoring testimonial
Angelina said, “I like Mrs. Keagle the best. Mrs. Keagle helps me learn.”
“I would tell any parent considering LearnerLink to do it. You won’t regret it,” Fitzgerald said. “Nicki has taken an active interest in Angelina, and she has made such amazing progress.”
“Districts in Arizona provide incredible learning opportunities for our students given the ongoing budgetary challenges,” said Dr. Denton Santarelli, the former superintendent of Peoria Unified School District, who co-founded LearnerLink with former administrator Rob Keagle. “LearnerLink is a research-based and results-driven service that can strategically partner with districts in order to maximize limited resources.”
LearnerLink was awarded a state-wide contract to provide tutoring and mentoring services to Arizona school districts, which can use their Title I and 21st Century grants to cover the costs, Dr. Santarelli said.
“By being selected in this process, LearnerLink can partner with districts throughout Arizona in order to offer high-quality learning experiences to students and districts can utilize district monies, grant monies, tax credit dollars and donations to support this partnership,” Dr. Santarelli said.
“There are many students that need tutoring but are not able to afford the services,” said Rob Keagle, co-founder of LearnerLink. “The statewide contract provides an opportunity for districts and schools to utilize grant monies to pay for tutoring services to identified, academically struggling students.”
How it helps students learn
LearnerLink was developed by Arizona’s leading educational employee staffing firm, Educational Services, Inc., to support teaching and help students learn while continuing to provide valuable educational partnerships for ESI’s school district partners, Keagle said.
To ensure student success, it’s important to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses, identify goals for improvement, then develop and design a personalized learning plan through which those goals can be realized, Keagle said.
“Our educators understand the need to tailor the curriculum to suit the personal learning style of the student,” Keagle said.
Tutors do that by using the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Map Growth test to measure a student’s instructional level, address specific instructional skill deficiencies and progress monitor their growth in mathematics, reading and language usage over time, Keagle said.
“Tutors utilize the test results to target an individual student’s instructional needs as well as communicate the learning progress with the student and parent,” Keagle said. “At the end of nine weeks, the tutor administers another Map Growth Test to measure what the student learned and what they are ready to learn.”
Also, LearnerLink’s integrated online whiteboard “provides a powerful and rich learning environment,” Keagle said. “You can connect via audio and video, screenshot and paste anything into the whiteboard, and save and store content on an account to share or refer to at a later stage.”
Students can also receive enrichment in an academic area or mentorship in a non-academic area such as leadership or communication, Keagle said.
What it’s like
Michelle said her daughter Meia was tutored in math after switching states and schools mid-year.
“She has made great progress closing gaps that were causing her to struggle learning new concepts,” Michelle said.
Meia said she feels happier now when she does math, and liked it when her tutor danced with her when she got the answers right.
Rhona Cohensitt, who tutors Meia, is a retired Peoria Unified School District teacher who also substitute teaches in the district.
Cohensitt said she likes to meet her students at the public library.
“I bring my laptop so I can show them PowerPoints, interactive games, and other online resources, Cohensitt said. “I also use worksheets and manipulatives, whatever I need to help the student learn the concept or skill I am teaching.”
Working one-on-one with a student, helps Cohensitt teach to that student’s individual needs.
“Not everyone learns the same way – some students need visuals and illustrations, some students need hands-on experiences – so I can adapt my lesson to suit their specific abilities,” Cohensitt said. “Additionally, if a student is making a mistake in the way they perform a task, I can identify the error immediately and correct it, before they learn it incorrectly.”
“When we are working together, I can give immediate feedback and praise them on their success. That instant gratification boosts a child’s self-esteem and confidence,” Cohensitt said.
Michelle said she appreciated the tutor’s flexibility in helping Meia at “a time and place that worked well for my family, and were able to reschedule for days we were on vacation.”
“We’ve had the very best experience with our tutor, Rhona. She is the most loving individual with a true heart for teaching who immediately bonded with not only my child, but me,” Michelle said. “She made learning fun and my child looks forward to going.”
Angelina’s tutor Nicki Keagle, who teaches fifth grade at Copper Creek Elementary School in Deer Valley Unified, describes what one of her LearnerLink tutoring sessions is like.
“Within the one-hour session, I will usually review the skills from the previous session then begin to work on new skills that have shown a need for improvement,” she said. “I use hands-on manipulatives whenever possible to help a student see the concrete skill we are working on. We also do computer interactive activities to help reinforce newly-learned skills.”
Nicki Keagle said working one-on-one lets her focus on the specific skills the student needs to work on and tailor her lessons accordingly, which helps the student gain confidence and show growth.
“I am able to help ensure a student is working at grade level and filling in any gaps to get their grade level,” she said “This way when the student is in class, they are able to understand what is being taught and show success daily rather than frustration. The student is able to expand their knowledge of grade level skills rather than always trying to catch up as the daily lessons progress.”
Carly Brooks said she appreciates how math tutoring helped increase her daughter Maddison’s “confidence, as well as her skill, in the areas that she needed more attentive focus.”
“We love the school’s immersion program, but we wanted to be sure the math concepts were fully registering in her brain,” Brooks said.
“The pre- and post-assessment confirmed that our daughter was on track, but it also demonstrated the significant progress that she made during her sessions,” Brooks said. “The data was helpful for us as parents to know that the time and our investment was well-spent.”
Maddison said her tutor is nice, funny and helps her “to feel better about doing hard math problems. Also, she reminds me to check my work.”
Why it works
Maddison’s tutor made a real effort to connect with her and found ways to reward her for her successes, Brooks said.
“Knowing that she was a certified teacher, with real classroom experience was a huge plus for us as we considered other tutoring programs,” Brooks said.
“Individualized tutoring provided by certified, background-checked teachers is the very best intervention for struggling students or students that want support in advanced course work,” Dr. Santarelli said.
Students’ success after high school is the goal of all districts which is why LearnerLink also offers services to prepare students for college with ACT, SAT and Advanced Placement assistance as well as “working with specific career and technical education programs to prepare students for career as well as college,” Dr. Santarelli said.