Andrea Martin started volunteering with APIE in the fall of 2013. As a new addition to APIE, she has already had a huge impact on her students. Andrea enjoys dedicating her time as a classroom coach helping improve the reading skills of middle school students in Austin.
APIE: What sparked your interest in volunteering with APIE?
AM: I used to teach middle school reading and missed working with middle school kids and heard about APIE through the Teach For America Alumni network here in Austin. APIE gives me the opportunity to support the teachers and administrators who are working hard every day to create an environment for excellent education in AISD.
APIE: What is something unique about APIE that stands it apart from other organizations?
AM: I feel like the volunteers are well-trained for what we are doing and we receive a lot of support. It’s also great consistency that for the most part we spend an hour every school week with the same kids. With this, we really get to see our kids through the course of the year.
APIE: You are currently working with 6th graders. What do you like about that age group?
AM: Middle school is a really tough time for everyone and if I, as a volunteer, can make the day a little easier, I want to be able to do that for my students.
APIE: What do you do for a living?
AM: I currently work in consulting for non-profits. Every day I am required to spend at least some time proofreading so I must be a careful and thorough reader for my work. For this reason, I am able to give my students clear examples of the importance of slowing down and paying close attention to what they are reading.
APIE: You have a Bachelors degree in English and Government and a Masters in Secondary Education.
AM: I point to my English degree with my students to tell them how important reading is to me. I hope they’ll learn to enjoy it and find it important in their own lives as well.
APIE: This is your first year as a volunteer. What has been the best part of the experience so far?
AM: As a citizen of Austin, I enjoy being able to learn and be a part of our city schools in at least this small way. It’s exciting to see the students learn something new or figure something out for themselves. We also have fun discussions during and after reading and it’s great to see them engage in our stories!
APIE: You seem to be making a lot of progress in the short amount of time you have volunteered.
AM: For me it’s valuable to be back in a classroom and having even a small opportunity to help my students grow as readers. I’ve greatly enjoyed working with my students. I love learning about them and their interests and also watching them have small successes in the classroom.
APIE: Have you faced any challenges as a volunteer?
AM: My biggest challenge has been with their attendance. It’s hard to see my students miss class, especially when I know they’re both already below grade-level readers.
APIE: What are some ways you feel volunteers can help with student attendance?
AM: Get to know your students and take an interest in their lives. Treat them like they’re adults and find ways to relate what they’re reading and learning about to their own lives.
APIE: APIE focuses on having small-group interactions between the volunteers and the students. Do you believe the students benefit from a personal learning environment?
AM: I’m so glad that I can give my students a little one-on-one time for reading practice. I know it’s valuable for them to be able to read aloud in such a low-pressure environment. As a volunteer, it is also great to be able to support the excellent work that tireless teachers like Mrs. Spear are doing every day with our students.
APIE: If you could tell your students one thing, what would it be?
AM: I’d just encourage them to find books and reading materials that interest them and read to them every day. That’s the only way I know they will become more successful readers and learners.
APIE: What do you hope APIE can achieve in the future?
AM: I hope APIE can continue to give more students the opportunities for classroom coaching sessions. I’m so glad programs like APIE exist to bring community members into our city’s schools and hope that even more members of the community will get involved with the program so they can have a better idea of the great work that is going on in our classrooms.