The Spirit of Giving Back Adds Up

student tutor smiling looking at computer with a calculator on the table

Twelve juniors from Shaker High have been using their math and social skills to relate with younger students. This has led to sharper learning and connection skills. “It seems the 6th grade students and 11th grade tutors genuinely enjoy working with each other, and I think the high school students have served as excellent role models,” said Pete Hanrahan, math teacher at Boght Hills.

Due to the schedule changes this year, it has been difficult for teachers to provide individual help on a regular basis. Mr. Hanrahan was eager to provide extra help for his students and his daughter Katie, who is strong in math, was motivated to stay active after the field hockey season ended. Katie asked classmates if they would be interested in providing one-on-one assistance with weekly math lessons.  

student tutor smiling looking at computer and pointing to chalkboard with a math problem“In a normal year he could help his students before school, after school, during the day, but this year he can’t,” said Katie. “When I reached out to my friends, it was an immediate yes from everybody. There was no, oh I have to think about it, or let me see, everyone was just like yes it’s such a great idea!”

Junior Class President Keara Papa could understand through her own experiences. “I know shifting to a pandemic learning style was a little difficult initially. So it’s definitely nice to be able to offer individual help in that, to answer any questions the student may have, or to make sure they are understanding the concepts.”

After Thanksgiving break, Katie Hanrahan, Keara Papa, Olivia Papa, Grace McManus, Jemma Pipe, Lily Luper, Abby Schneider, Emily Betty, Davin Testo, Hannah Byun, Allison Kunin, and Mia Raiti started tutoring students twice a week for 30 minutes. 

Mr. Hanrahan provides instructional materials and a short video to ensure the tutors are using the same language and methods that he teaches. He said, “It has been great to see my students strengthen their confidence and skills due to the work they have been doing with their high school tutor. It has also been nice to see the positive relationships that have developed due to this collaboration.” 

student tutor writing in a notebook and talking on Zoom from her computer“Everybody is so isolated this year. And even at school with everything being six feet apart and not having any social time really, it’s nice to be able to talk to them,” said Katie. Mr. Hanrahan said that the tutors go above and beyond, preparing their lessons, finding additional materials and spending extra time with their students. “Being able to tutor one-on-one allows them to slow down,” said Olivia Papa. “The girl that I work with, we have our connection and it’s nice to know what she has a little bit of trouble with and what she gets right off the bat. At the beginning we always spend a few minutes catching up. I see how her day has been, how her weekend was. So just being able to have that helps her be more comfortable with the environment.” student tutor using her hands while she explains a lesson on her computer


Keara said, “Since last March, it seems like everything has changed but it has definitely made me better adapt to situations.” She added that living in a pandemic has taught her to be more understanding about certain things and has given her a new approach. “Without this year being the way it is,” Katie said, “this never would’ve happened. So there’s good that came out of this because in a normal school year as juniors, we would be extremely busy and this might not have happened. So it’s kind of interesting to think about.”student tutor pointing at computer with pencil