The COVID19 school shutdowns in mid-March prevented Littles from going to school, however The English Tutor made sure that didn’t mean that they didn’t have access to education.
Founded by two Toronto teachers, Julie Champagne and Samantha Leach, The English Tutor has been providing children and youth in the BBBST community access to virtual classrooms and online learning opportunities during the pandemic. Thus far they’ve taught 97 children from the BBBST organization.
“We know that the children from [BBBST]…with COVID they’re the ones that are going to be affected most by the lack of schooling,” Leach said.
Since establishing a partnership with BBBST Champagne and Leach have provided daily sessions with three separate groups of kids teaching them a plethora of topics in literature from Shakespeare to Roald Dahl.
Leach believes that how they format their teaching is largely beneficial to the kids’ education. By providing smaller class sizes with a maximum of 12 participants and giving every Little the opportunity to take part in the lesson Leach has said that all kids get to, “feel like the teacher has noticed them.”
While there’s extreme value in the continuing education that they provide, Leach sees it as more than that, “It’s got its educational value but I think it hits so many of the other things that the charity tries to hit too.”
“They know every Monday Julie will be on at 4 o’clock and she will be there. We love being that kind of consistency for them. We want to be that stability for the children during this time”
Consistency for children and youth during times of uncertainty has been one of the cornerstones of The English Tutor’s support during the pandemic and a core belief of BBBST. As consistent, caring adults in these kids’ lives they’ve also seen plenty of development within the kids themselves.
When asked about the development that they’ve seen in the kids Leach responded, “Their confidence. Some of them who didn’t want to read at the start have come out of their shell a little bit more. The hope is that they can go back into class and feel more confident putting their hand up and being like ‘I can do this, I can read this in front of the class.’”
One girl in particular came to Leach’s mind, “There’s a girl who at the start wouldn’t read or turn her camera on. Gradually she’s started to turn her camera on, now she’s fully on the screen and asks to read every slide.”
According to Leach, a lot of that confidence stems from their investment in the kids. “It’s so important for them to feel like someone’s invested in them; and education solves a lot of problems. It gives them the motivation to be like ‘ok well I can do high school, maybe I can go to University, maybe I can get this job.”
The impact that they’ve made on BBBST Littles during the pandemic is evident in the responses they get from participating families. Both Champagne and Leach were even invited to one kids’ virtual birthday party and received a nice message in return from the kids’ mother thanking them for being there.
As details are currently being developed into Ontario’s back-to-school plan, both Champagne and Leach take pride in knowing that whatever does come of school in September, all participating children will not be as far behind in their education as they could have been without The English Tutor.