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Thank You Thursdays! Happy Volunteer Appreciation Month

April 27, 2023

Happy Volunteer Appreciation Month Heart Tutors! As we begin our final month of tutoring for the 2022/23 school year, we are excited to see over 1,200 volunteer tutors dedicating time each week to support students. Tutors are the “heart” behind HMT’s mission of ensuring all elementary students develop the strong foundation in math and enthusiasm for academics needed for long-term success.

This month we will be spotlighting just a few of our many amazing volunteers each week with a “Thank you Thursday” post. Be on the lookout for a new spotlight each Thursday!

For our final Heart tutor spotlight of Volunteer Appreciation Month, we wanted to shine a light on a tutor who has dedicated the past 8 years to supporting students through Heart Math Tutoring. Mike Dorsel began his tutoring journey when he first moved to Charlotte 11 years ago. He started out independently tutoring students at his son’s elementary school, but a few years later he heard about Heart Math Tutoring and decided to see what it was all about. “My wife saw something in the newspaper about Heart and I signed up pretty much instantly and started working with Heart that fall,” Mike said.  Mike saw a difference between the work he was able to do on his own and the tutoring that took place through Heart. “It was a really neat thing but the contrast between working in a CMS school and working through the Heart program…I was absolutely hooked on what Heart was doing during the first year.”

Since he began tutoring with Heart, Mike has worked with over 50 dedicated students and, during that time, has experienced countless “aha” moments and memorable sessions. Mike said it was hard to choose a favorite, but one especially impactful moment he remembers was with a student who was stuck in the More or Less notebook. She was brand new to the United States and still learning English. “I ended up speaking to her a bit in Spanish, breaking down what how many more means.” Mike took the time to go beyond what was on the page to find a way to best support his student. “That’s one of the spots in the curriculum, because its not just a math thing, it’s a language thing, and figuring out how to translate that for them, then watching them understand is just one of the beautiful spots in the curriculum.” Seeing a new concept click for a student is one of Mike’s favorite parts of being a Heart tutor. “The neat part is when you see that “aha” moment but then that’s followed by an appreciation that they’ve had the “aha” moment. They get it, they understand that they’ve learned something, and they understand that they’re further than they were. That’s the fun part to me,” Mike says.

The many Heart Program Coordinators who have had the chance to work with Mike over the years have seen the tremendous impact that his positive attitude and dedication have on his students as well. This year, Mike is tutoring students both in-person and virtually. Lauren Hillesheim, a Program Manager who has worked with Mike virtually at Hidden Valley this year, told us, “Mike is so patient and thoughtful with his students. He brings out the best in them. He is also willing to jump in and sub or support however he can during a session.”

This year alone Mike has been a consistent mentor and tutor to 8 students across 4 schools. Being a math major in college and having previously worked in insurance, Mike has a lot of experience with math himself and recognizes the importance of building foundational math skills and a strong understanding of numbers. When working through the curriculum, he loves to see his students gain this deeper understanding over time. “They have all these things they’ve gained,  they’ve gained a familiarity, they’ve gained a math maturity. No matter whether they go back to some of the standard methods or not they’ve got a toolbox that’s going to help them, they’ve got an understanding that’s going to help them, and that’s the neat stuff. They get it on a level beyond the mechanics.”

Mike Parman, Heart Program Coordinator at Lansdowne Elementary, has worked with Mike for several years and shared, “Mike Dorsel is a Heart rock star! I’ve had the privilege of Mike tutoring in my schools for 7 years. His students show tremendous growth each year. More important than growth, he is compassionate, patient, and understanding with his students. They love coming to Heart each week to work with Mike.”

The time Mike spends tutoring each week not only has an impact on his students but is an important part of his week as well. “I feel like when I engage in Heart, the rest of the world goes away and I have something that I can look forward to a couple times a week; have a space where I’m interacting with somebody that they want to have fun, they want to learn. It’s not complicated!”

Mike has enjoyed seeing the growth his students make both in their math skills and in other areas. Tutoring for several years means that Mike has often had the chance to work with the same student two years in a row, building that relationship even further. “I’ve had a few students I’ve worked with back-to-back years and have seen real jumps in how much traction they can get with English or how they’ve blossomed in terms of how they engage with an adult.”

Debbie Kirsch is the Heart Program Coordinator at Endhaven Elementary. She shared the numerous ways that Mike jumps in to go above and beyond to support Heart. “It is hard to think of just one example of how Mike is a great tutor! He works hard to make sure he sees his students once a week. Mike is always willing to work with other students when needed and jumps in to do an extra assessment if needed. It is great to hear Mike working with the students, holding them accountable for doing the work, and maintaining high expectations for the students.”

We are so thankful for Mike Dorsel and the huge impact he has on Heart and on all of his students. From tutoring and relationship building with his own students each week, to jumping in and subbing when additional students need support, to assisting with assessments throughout the year, Mike truly is a Heart rock star!

April 20, 2023- Charleston Tutors

In Spring 2022 Heart Math Tutoring expanded to its first new city outside of Charlotte, NC, and began connecting volunteers with students in Charleston County School District. This school year, nearly 50 tutors are supporting 63 students at two Charleston schools, Ladson Elementary and Dunston Elementary.

We wanted to take some time during volunteer appreciation month to show our gratitude to our Charleston volunteers who have played such an important role in growing the program in this new region and providing a positive impact on Charleston students.

Shakitha Barner tutors at Ladson Elementary and spoke to us about her experiences as a Heart tutor this year. “My favorite part of tutoring is the students. I’ve met such bright students who work hard to be successful. I enjoy getting to know them outside of math, and trying to relate their interests to the content they are learning.” With the consistent, one-on-one tutoring format, volunteers build strong relationships with students that can have an impact on their confidence as well as their math skills. Deann Glover, another Ladson Elementary tutor told us, “My favorite thing about tutoring with Heart Math Tutoring is the bond I’ve created with my students. I look forward to our weekly time together.” Shakitha was also able to see improvement in her student’s confidence this year; “I’ve had one student that excelled with the math. However, the most noticeable change is his confidence in his ability to do math. At the start of the year, he was unsure of his answers and very unsure of himself. Now, he reminds me that he’s very smart every time he gets a question correct, which is all the time.”

When tutors connect with their students and build relationships during their sessions, the impact on students can be especially powerful. Debbie Deep, a tutor at Dunston Elementary told us a story about a sweet moment with her student this year where both relationship building and math skills were in play! “One touching moment for me was when my student used a Hundreds block, Base 10 cubes, and Base 10 rods to write ‘I Love You.’ So sweet! And then I asked him how many cubes it took to write that!”

We are so grateful for Shakitha, Deann, and Debbie, along with all of our Charleston volunteers. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us and share your tutoring experiences. We are lucky to have such dedicated volunteers leading the way in Charleston!


April 13, 2023- Andres at Smithfield

This week, Heart is highlighting the work and dedication of 6th year tutor Andres Romero.

Andres had recently moved to Charlotte and started working for Wells Fargo when he first heard about Heart in 2017. He said, “one of the things that I wanted to do as far as having a better work/life balance was to be more involved in the community.” Heart’s mission caught his eye when he received an email about volunteer opportunities in Charlotte and he signed up to tutor!

Andres began tutoring at Sterling Elementary since the school’s location allowed him to tutor on his way to work in the morning. He is 1 of 42 Wells Fargo employees that volunteer each week with Heart. Andres says having a supportive employer allows him to balance volunteering with a busy work schedule: “Having the support of my team, my manager, and the company helps a great deal. As a company, we believe in community involvement, and I think Wells Fargo serves the community where we work well. It’s probably one of the best things that we do.” Heart is grateful for Wells Fargo’s commitment to Charlotte students and ongoing support of our program.

Throughout six years as a tutor, Andres has had a positive impact on many students. When asked his favorite part of tutoring he said, “all of it is really amazing, to be honest. I think the best part is around this time of year because you start to see how things are coming together for the students, how all that work is paying off for them. It’s rewarding being able to look at all the milestones of the things they’ve done, how they’re really mastering the concepts on their own. That to me is huge.”

While Andres began his first year tutoring at Sterling Elementary, the 2022-23 school year is the 4th year that Andres has tutored at Smithfield. Heart’s Program Coordinator at Smithfield, Amanda Griffin, says “Andres is a model volunteer at Smithfield Elementary. I am continuously amazed by his dedication and unwavering reliability. Through his patience and authentic kindness, he has built a heartwarming relationship with his 3rd and 4th grade students. His excitement and enthusiasm for Heart is deeply appreciated.”

Andres shared that he is passionate about connecting with students who speak Spanish. He said, “I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of kids whose home language is Spanish. I would like to think that for the students it’s impactful that they see someone they can relate to, someone that speaks like them or looks like them.” He shared that one of his students this year, like Andres, is from Colombia. Andres said he introduced himself to his student using the Spanish pronunciation of his name, and the student asked where he was from. “I told him Colombia and he was like, ‘me too!’” Andres said, however, they don’t talk much about being from Colombia; they mostly talk about their mutual love for soccer: “It’s been interesting for me to speak to a student, that was born in Colombia. He even talks about games that he plays at home, which were games that I played. He plays soccer a lot and it’s allowed us to bond.”

Andres wants to encourage more Spanish speaking community members to volunteer with Heart. He says “I think everything about the program is fantastic, but as far as wishes, I would wish for more people who speak Spanish to volunteer because I think there are a lot of children whose first language is Spanish or they speak Spanish at home and they’re comfortable with it. It helps those students, in those brief moments, to have someone that speaks Spanish.” Heart is appreciative of Andres for encouraging others to volunteer and wanting to make the tutoring experience comfortable and inclusive for all students.

Thank you, Andres for your time and many years of dedication to students!

April 6, 2023- Alex at Westerly Hills 

This week we talked to Pineville Elementary tutor, Alex Givens. This is Alex’s first year tutoring with Heart after learning about the program through his employer, Ernst & Young (EY). Alex serves with EY’s corporate responsibility program, EY Ripples, which focuses on supporting mentoring, coaching, and educational programs. Alex shared Heart’s volunteer opportunity with his colleagues and noted, “I’m also very passionate about tutoring, so I thought, ‘I’ll join as well.’”

As an accountant, Alex has a love for math that he wants to share with his students. Alex’s favorite part of working with his 3rd and 4th grade students is “connecting with them on the subject of math, but also being a supporter in their life, someone that says, ‘you can achieve this.’” Alex told us how he’s seen his students’ confidence grow since tutoring began last October. Heart’s Program Coordinator at Pineville, Eileen Moskey, attributes this growth to Alex’s enthusiasm: “Alex’s students really connect with him and are so excited each week to see him and work with him on improving their math skills.  Alex gives his students time to try to solve the problem on their own instead of immediately jumping in, which can be the most challenging part of being a successful tutor.  Alex is a strong and positive role model for his students, and we are so fortunate to have him in the program!”

Heart tutors’ focus is on building foundational math skills with their students; they also serve as mentors and provide encouragement that can have a positive impact on students’ confidence. Alex spoke about building a relationship with his students by talking to them about their lives and interests: “I have two great students; we talk a lot about March Madness, pets, home, and what they like to do outside of school.”  Alex’s rapport-building skills have not gone unnoticed; Heart Program Manager, Padgett Vaughn, says Alex has “fantastic energy and his students love him!”

Heart is grateful to have many volunteer partners, such as EY, that support their employees tutoring during the school day. Alex is one of EY’s 25 Heart volunteers and when talking about how he manages volunteering as a busy professional, he shared that “tutoring has been a nice ‘wake up’ thing I do on Thursday mornings; connecting with my students adds a little more pep in my step going into the office those days.” He also shared a sweet memory of picking up one of his students from class after returning from a work trip. His student excitedly said, “Alex, you’re back!” Alex says his student’s reaction “makes it all worth it.”

Thank you, Alex, for your time and dedication to your students! Heart Math Tutoring is thankful for ALL of our incredible, impactful tutors!

March 30, 2023 – Wing and Ashley at WHA

This week we spoke with Wing Chan and Ashley Stewart. Wing and Ashley are partner tutors, currently tutoring in-person at Westerly Hills Academy.

Wing has been tutoring with Heart for 8 years, ever since she first moved to Charlotte. “I was really interested in doing something new, something different. I was brand new to the city so it was a perfect opportunity.” Wing has not only spent years as a tutor but has recruited a friend to volunteer at Westerly Hills as well. Ashley is in her second year of tutoring, but spent many years in the education field prior to becoming a Heart tutor. “I taught for CMS for 10 years at Bruns Avenue, so I saw tutoring and thought, I can do this.”

Both Wing and Ashley have enjoyed getting to work with their students at Westerly Hills Academy this year. From getting to know the students to building their confidence and

 improving their math skills, the hour per week they spend working with their two students has had a huge impact.

Both noted that they have really enjoyed seeing their students’ confidence and math skills grow. Ashley told us that “Outside of math, I see several areas of growth in the students. I see them grow in confidence, their willingness to take risks, and the ability to stick with a task until it is completed.”

When asked what the most rewarding part of being a tutor is, Wing noted that, “It’s seeing the difference that you make in not only the math part, of course that’s really critical, but also in their behavior, in their confidence, and in how they communicate, especially for little ones who may not get as much time or attention in the classroom or at home. Knowing that every 30 minutes that we spend together will make a difference makes me happy.”

Heart tutors are truly making a difference in their students’ lives! Wing noted that one of her favorite things this year is when her student “would run up and go ‘Ms. Wing! Good morning!’” every week when she comes to pick him up for tutoring. Ashley told us about a student who had been struggling to remain engaged during tutoring, but over the course of a month working one-on-one together his attitude changed: “Finally, one morning when I appeared in the classroom door to pick him up for tutoring, he smiled!!  As we became friends, I came to realize he had a great sense of humor.  He made me chuckle most every tutoring session with his witty comments. I feel like learning some math, as well as having a friend, made the difference in his attitude and willingness to try.”

HMT’s Program Coordinator at Westerly Hills, Erin, told us that “Wing is a tutor that advocates for both of her students. I can tell she wants both of them to grow and retain their math skills,” and “Ashley is someone who meets her students where they’re at in ability and is quick to think of strategies to help them grasp tricky concepts.”

Whether it’s your 10th year volunteering with Heart, or your very first year as a tutor, we are so grateful for the time you spend each week dedicated to supporting students. In wrapping up our conversation, Ashley told us “Even though I have only been involved in Heart for 2 years, it continues to be one of the highlights of my week!  I wish I had known about it years ago. Growing up, I always loved math, so seeing kids begin to truly understand and enjoy math is fun.”

Thank you Wing and Ashley! We are so grateful for your partnership and thank you to ALL of our amazing Heart volunteers this year!

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