Before they retired and started volunteering together as Oasis tutors, sisters Margie Hittle and Karen Schneider didn’t see much of one another beyond holiday gatherings. Now, they see each other all the time, an added bonus to doing something they’ve both come to love: making an impact on children.

Karen Schneder and her student

“Tutoring has been a way to reconnect and an opportunity to spend time together,” says Karen (right). “We’re sisters as well as good friends.”

Karen retired from corporate America first and in her efforts to reintegrate into her community, Indianapolis, she discovered Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring.

When Margie followed a few years later, after years in the nonprofit sector, she joined the tutoring ranks as well. The two have worked with children in the Indianapolis elementary schools for a combined 17 years, sharing rides and much more.

“We are great resources for each other. We share materials, books, lessons, what works and what doesn’t,” says Margie (at left).

Over the years, Karen and Margie have been assigned students with varying strengths and challenges. Both participate not only in the traditional Oasis tutoring program, but also a High-Impact model that involves more time commitment from the tutor.

More time, more results

Traditional Oasis tutoring happens once a week for 45 to 60 minutes.  High-Impact model tutors meet with the children each week for two or more shorter sessions of 30 to 4Margie Hittle and her student5 minutes.

“This approach is based on landmark research by Washington University in St. Louis that revealed that children who receive multiple contacts with a reading tutor throughout the week have an increased likelihood for success,” says Oasis National Tutoring Manager Jeanne Foster. “For some children, the extra time is just what they need.”

Support from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust has made it possible to offer the model in nine Indianapolis Public Schools, including Cold Spring School, where Karen and Margie find themselves twice a week. The program’s impact on students is easy to see, says Karynn Katz, the school’s parent involvement coordinator.

“This program allows our students to have someone who truly cares consistently there for them, which helps improve their self-esteem,” says Karynn. “This one-on-one time is invaluable. We’ve seen great academic success from our students who work with a tutor.”

Double sister act

This year, Karen and Margie have met their young match: identical twins Amiyah and Kamiyla, second graders at Cold Spring School.

“Margie and I don’t look alike at all,” says Karen. “These two little girls had a hard time believing we are sisters, at first.”

The girls meet with their tutors twice a week, same time, same place. The additional time afforded with High-Impact tutoring, makes possible some pretty neat interactions.  Karen often uses a calendar to help students learn the months, seasons and special holidays and observances. As President’s Day approached, she and Amiyah were trying to figure out some information on one of the presidents.

“Like most kids today, Amiyah’s go-to solution was to Google it,” recalls Karen. “But I told her we didn’t need to do that because I have a sister who can name all the presidents in order and that she plays a neat memory game to keep it all straight. I think she was impressed that I didn’t have to use Google to get our questions answered.”

Both the once-a-week and twice-a-week versions of the Oasis tutoring program are beneficial, says Karynn Katz.

>“Our two second grade teachers have welcomed tutors to work with their students for several years due to the positive impact,” she says. “All of our parents are excited to have their children get the additional academic support.

Positive feedback for Oasis tutoring in general continues to grow.  A 2015 end-of-year survey of principals, teachers and tutors indicated that 100% of principals felt that Oasis tutors added a positive element to their schools, with 99% planning to continue participation. Tutors are pleased, too, with 96% reporting plans to continue volunteering.

Students participating continue to make strides across the board, according to their teachers:

  • 96% reported improved confidence and self-esteem in their students who were tutored

  • 93% reported improved attitudes toward language arts in tutored students

  • 91% reported improved academic performance by tutored students

The High-Impact Model is also offered in six East Harlem Schools through a partnership with Union Settlement.

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Karen and Margie are featured in the 2015 Oasis Annual Report

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