A Veteran Teacher’s Journey to Tutoring

From Classroom to Community: A Veteran Teacher’s Journey

I was an elementary school teacher for twenty-two years for the Paterson School District in Paterson, NJ. I taught Kindergarten and second grades. Those were the best years of my career. Until I relocated to Atoka, TN, and became involved with Literacy Mid-South ten years ago.

After instructing the younger group of students for years I decided to challenge myself and chose to tutor adults in reading. This new adventure was scary to me. Until I concluded that my little people were now adults. My tutoring style would be similar. We would teach each other.

Mattie Ward with members of the Adult Learning Program Learner Council

Kindergarten was the first time some of my students had been in school; therefore I had to become their mothers away from home, their cheerleaders when they mastered a task, and their guidance when needed. I purchased over a million stickers for them. I had to be transparent to my adult learners, to let them know I was there to help them as I did for my younger students. I had to learn what they liked to read. People do well if they like something.

I would take the first two weeks with all of my learners to get to know them and for them to know that I was there to help them. I couldn’t give the adults stickers, but I could give them my attention, my reassurance that we are a team. Sometimes a smile is all it takes to make someone feel good about the choice they have made. It’s a rewarding joy to see them achieving a dream.

-Mattie Ward, Literacy Mid-South Volunteer Tutor