We are excited to announce our partnership with Austin ISD to implement a new volunteer management platform at austinisd.voly.org. Please note that all volunteer registration for VOLY platform will start on August 8th, 2024. Austin ISD's VOLY portal will start accepting applications for specific volunteer and campus programs on August 15th, 2024.

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and throughout the month we show appreciation and celebrate all our amazing volunteers! For the 2020-21 school year, we transitioned our volunteer programs to be completely virtual. We have all had adapt to this new virtual learning environment.  We’re grateful to our many mentors and Math Classroom Coaches who have taken on the challenge and continue to serve Austin ISD students! In this Q&A, we spoke with two of our volunteers, Matt Rodriguez and David Stern, about their experience volunteering virtually. As we wrap up the school year, we’re so thankful for them and all our awesome volunteers for their efforts this year!

Matt Rodriguez | Math Classroom Coach

Q: How long have you been volunteering?

A: I’ve done classroom coaching since the fall semester of 2010, when I worked for APIE as a college intern.

Q: How has virtual volunteering been for you?

A: Volunteering this year has been a little different, but isn’t holistically different from years past. Tutoring virtually has been more convenient for me, but I miss being able to see students in-person and being able to connect with them on a more personal level. Overall though, it hasn’t changed my motivation to volunteer or the sense of accomplishment I share with the students.

Q: How have you adjusted to volunteering virtually?

A: The first 3-5 times were tough, but I think I’ve got the hang of it now. Not being able to show math with pen and paper has been hard, but it’s forced me to work on my verbal communication skills and use all the tools that Zoom has to offer.

Q: What impact do you hope to have on your students?

A: As with every year, my goal is to show students that math is useful and approachable. I want them to know that math isn’t just for “nerds,” but is useful in many career fields and everyday life, and it can be understood and applied by anyone who’s willing to put in a little effort.

Q: What do you think the students need from a virtual volunteer during this time?

A: This year, I think students are looking for some sense of normalcy and rhythm. I try to consistently be present and tutor as if I were there with them in-person.

Q: What have you learned that works for virtual volunteering?

A: For virtual tutoring, I’ve had to slow down my speech and reiterate concepts multiple times, sometimes with different words. I also try to type math vocabulary in the chat or annotate it on slides so that students can see what I’m saying. I’ve found that students respond more to questions posed in the chat rather than just asked out loud. Students rarely turn on their screen or unmute themselves, but they are often willing to communicate over the chat. I’ve learned to accept that, and have tried to focus my communication through the chat feature.


David Stern | Mentor

Q: How long have you been volunteering?  

A: I’ve been volunteering since January 2019. Currently I have three mentees in 1st grade, 7th grade, and 9th grade.

Q: How has the transition to the virtual format been for you?

A: Unfortunately, I lost contact with one of my mentees I had since I started in 2019. I miss him and cannot imagine what it is like for him to start high school in this climate. I have a new mentee in his same position and we have met regularly before the transition back into the classroom. It’s been nice getting to know him, even though we’ve never met in person. The most reliable mentee I have had is my 1st grader who comes every week with lots of energy. I miss seeing the kids in person and I hope they are doing all right.

Q: What impact do you hope to have on your students?

A: Trying to show them that I care and that I am here for them, and that anything they want to talk about, I want to talk about. Consistently showing up and being present is the best thing we can do; I try to show them I have no agenda besides just being there for them.

Q: What have you learned that works for virtual volunteering?

A: When we are able to meet, I do not have an agenda. It is important to have a good attitude and ask them super open-ended questions and follow up with anything that has happened since the last time we met. It has gotten less structured as they have gotten used to my ways to engage them, so switching it up, having no agenda, and remembering details to follow up about is so important.

Q: What is your favorite part of logging in each week?

A: I get so much out of it. Just showing up for them means a lot to me. I try to get in their headspace and understand how lots of things are out of their control. I think if I were in their place, I would want somebody with no agenda, who is present to listen. It means a lot to me to hear about their lives, and to know they are getting something out of it. Their energy and perspective are the award in itself.

Interviews conducted by: Briana Kallenbach, APIE Communications Intern

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Austin Partners in Education will be closed beginning Friday, December 22 and ending Friday, January 5. We will return to normal business hours on Monday, January 8. All emails, phone calls, and volunteer background check applications will be completed upon our return. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Happy Holidays!

Austin Partners in Education cerrará comenzando el viernes 22 de diciembre y hasta el viernes 5 de enero. Volveremos al horario comercial normal el lunes 8 de enero. Todos los correos electrónicos, llamadas telefónicas y solicitudes de verificación de antecedentes de voluntarios se completarán a nuestro regreso. Gracias por su paciencia y comprensión. ¡Felices Fiestas!