For more than a year now, a small group of dedicated Dwight Global students has been meeting every Saturday to tutor students in Saint Kitts and Nevis, a dual-island nation known for its cloud-shrouded mountains and beautiful beaches nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
The Dwight Global tutors, all National Honors Society members, bring personalized, academic help to the St. Kitts and Nevis students, who welcome the specialized support and the transnational connections.
In 2020, Dwight Global teamed up with SANAS: St. Kitts and Nevis Association Slough, an organization that advances education and promotes health and wellbeing, on the initiative of Dwight Global’s Dean of Students Dr. Anthea Lake. Dr. Lake hoped to establish relationships between students in a volunteer program that draws on academic excellence, leadership, and interpersonal skills.
The inaugural sessions were spearheaded by Dwight Global students Emily Schmidt ‘24, Jity Woldemichael ‘23 and former DG student Victoria McEnroe ‘24, who sought to empower girls through education, and in particular in countries that needed the help.
At the time, a volcano had erupted on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, south of St. Kitts and Nevis, and the volcanic ashfall caused evacuations.The volcanic eruption coincided with the pandemic, and island schools were being used as hospitals for the better part of a year. Residents fled to other Caribbean islands, including St. Kitts and Nevis.
“These Dwight Global students stepped up to help.The tutors give up part of their Saturdays to tutor 25 or more students, and in some cases adults join in, too,” said Dr. Lake.
“SANAS reaches the St. Kitts students through word of mouth, and because education in the islands has distinct schools for girls and boys, many students have experienced coed learning for the first time during Dwight Global’s group tutoring sessions,” she said.
“It has been a terrific collaboration that exposes both groups to new things,” said Dr. Lake. “At one point, one of the Dwight Global students carried her laptop outside so students in St. Kitts could see snow! Our DG students benefit as much as the students they are teaching.”
Tutors are paired with one or more students, and meet each Saturday from 10 am - 11:15 am Eastern Standard Time.
“There are at least six Dwight students involved, though the regulars tend to be myself, Nathan Smith(‘23), and Emma Owendoff (‘24),” said Jip Clarke ‘23, who tutors physical science, biology, algebra, geometry, and number operations to grades 8 and 10.
“We are usually paired with the same student or students each session, and the topics taught can range from creative writing to science and mathematics,” said Jip.
Nathan Smith ‘23, who always tutors math, prepares for his lessons ahead of time by amassing a variety of math problems for the students.
“During the lesson, I aim to help the students understand the information, rather than be told answers. I start by discussing the key aspects of whatever concept we are going to discuss, and I first allow them to understand the principles. Once this has been achieved, I will demonstrate the application of those techniques, and then provide similar questions for the students to work through. If we get through these smoothly, I have a batch of questions slightly more challenging than what will actually come on any exams or assignments they are preparing for. This way, they will be so well versed in the topic, that the normal questions will be like second nature to them. I strive to show them how to complete problems, and to impart enough knowledge and encourage their participation so that they will be able to essentially show somebody else how to do the problems if they were asked to,” explained Nathan.
Emma Owendoff ‘24 tutors biology, physics, math, English, and Spanish language and culture to students in grades 6, 7 and 8.
Emma said she enjoys the connection with the students and the tutoring itself, and she appreciates the challenge of tutoring students at multiple skill levels.
“I remember when I had to tutor three students in completely different grades and they wanted me to give them a writing prompt to write a story. I asked them to write about three friends: a fox, a raccoon, and a squirrel, and create a story about what they do on a Friday night,” said Emma. “I had a very interesting time explaining a raccoon, considering they don’t have raccoons on St. Kitts!”
How did her students' stories come out?
“One of my students took a more realistic approach, describing the trio attacking the neighborhood trash cans for their Friday night buffet,” said Emma. “Another made it slightly sinister, writing about the premature ending of the friends’ favorite night. After being crashed by the local animal patrol, the trio tries to escape the confines of the animal shelter. Luckily, they escaped, but their weekend was ruined. The third student took a very imaginative approach, giving each animal human qualities – making a scholarly squirrel, a rambunctious fox, and a lazy raccoon.”
The tutors agree that teaching multiple levels at once is the biggest challenge they face on a weekly basis. They have developed strategies to differentiate and meet each student they tutor at that student’s current level, and then develop progress from there.
Jip said he tries to work his way up from the youngest student’s material to the oldest, and incorporate bits of all levels.
“Before the meeting begins each Saturday, I have material prepared depending on the student’s academic level in that subject,” said Jip. “I usually teach various topics of math and science. By the end of the session, my goal is that the students can go through expansive problems on their own and explain the steps in doing so!”
Nathan said he tends to split the work into sections, so that none of the students get left behind. “I do this also so that the more advanced students do not become bored,” said Nathan. “I allow them to progress at their own pace, and at the end of the lesson, if someone is still confused about something, I provide them with study guide links with information to assist them with their understanding of the material.
Emma said a separate challenge is determining each student’s prior knowledge so she presents each student with material that is appropriate for their level.
“At the end of each session, every tutor and student shares what they learned, and shares any critical feedback if they have any,” said Jip. “This discussion provides the tutors with greater insight into how our students learn.”
Emma said she was happy to receive feedback from one of the SANAS teachers, who sat in on one of her tutoring sessions.
“He said that I added a humorous twist to teaching and am very organized. He was extraordinarily appreciative!” said Emma.