​St. James’ Program Benefits Teachers and Students

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer

One student wanted to learn computer coding. Voila, there’s a tutor for that.
Another needed help with reading. There’s someone for that, too.
The new tutoring program at St. James Episcopal Church in Midway started in January and is proving to be good for both pupils and the assortment of teachers and college students who volunteer there.
Ann Seiters taught elementary and middle school for 40 years in places such as Wilmington, Del., Chattanooga and here in Sewanee. She’s retired professionally, but life goes on, she said, and she’s happy to be teaching again.
“It’s just a joy working alongside so many experienced, high-powered teachers,” Seiters said. “It’s like walking in a beautiful garden.”
The program is near capacity with about 16 students attending on Wednesdays, said Betty Carpenter, director of Community Action Committee (CAC), the group that spearheaded the project.
“Sewanee is full of retired school teachers who love kids and love to teach, but they’re done with teaching school,” Carpenter said. “This afterschool tutoring program just gives them a chance to practice their craft and give of their time to make children’s lives better.”
In addition to retired teachers, at least four University of the South students help tutor at St. James. Senior Alyson Carr, a music and economics major, has worked at public schools in Sewanee and Alabama.
“Tutoring was just the natural way to help and give back to my community,” she said. “I’ll help them in any way that I can because I know how hard it is to get homework done at the end of the day and make sure your kids understand everything.”
Carpenter noted that the program is also a gift to parents who know that homework will get done on Wednesdays between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., allowing for family time in the evening.
The tutoring idea was born after organizers noticed how many neighborhood kids visited the summer meal program at St. James, Carpenter said.
CAC Bonner Leader Allison Bruce was heavily involved in planning the program, and two community leaders and parents, Crystal Dykes and Amanda Knight, also joined the effort. In addition, Julia Bates, who was instrumental with tutoring programs in Maryland, shared her expertise.
Carpenter praised the partnership between CAC, the Midway community, St. James, students and retired teachers.
“To me, this is the perfect example of the way this town works,” she said. “It’s just connecting the dots.”
The tutoring program starts with 15 minutes of free play, followed by snack time, which includes icebreaker games to encourage conversation. Then the tutoring begins, often with one teacher for each student. Tutors are required to undergo background checks and safeguard training.
The program is open to students in grades K-8. For more information, call (931) 636-2377 or email cacoteyparish@gmail.com.