Painted Sky
Heidi Radtke thanks the 50 tutors for their hours of dedication to students in the 2010-2011 school year. Volunteers in the background included Laura Feltes and Andrea Friedman who participated in the program aimed at providing reading and math tutoring. Thelma Grimes/The Explorer

With state budget cuts, class sizes statewide are increasing more and more every year. As a result, teachers may not be able to provide all their students with the individualized attention they need.

In Oro Valley, however, students struggling with essential skills in reading and math have received help through a volunteer tutoring program at Painted Sky Elementary School, 12620 N. Woodburne Ave.

Heidi Radtke, program coordinator, said it’s hard for a teacher to give the one-on-one consideration a student falling behind may need. Looking to find an answer to the problem, Painted Sky started an all-volunteer tutoring program in the 2010-2011 school year.

After the first year of operation, Radtke called it a success in a special appreciation event held for the 50 volunteers on May 16.

In December, Radtke said they had 25 people helping 36 students. After a newspaper report in The Explorer ran in the final publication of the year, Radtke said the number of volunteers doubled to 50 for the second semester.

Some of the volunteer tutors are parents, some are retired educators and some just want to do their part.

Wanting to give back is parent Beth Shapiro, who tutors both math and reading.

“My daughter’s a first-grader, and she got some help in reading. I saw what a difference it made for her so when there was a call for math, I thought it was time to do my part.”

Parent Micheline Bell said she volunteers two or three days a week.

“I just think it’s a great program that helped a lot of students,” she said.

Radtke said while math tutoring is available, there is a major emphasis on reading with more than 100 students getting the extra help.

“Without this program these kids would just fall through the cracks,” said Radtke. “These kids get someone’s undivided attention once a week. We serve as an added resource to the teachers.”

A lot of the tutors were successful in reaching the students because they often incorporated student interests into the lessons.

In one case, a tutor took a student’s love of the New York Yankees and incorporated reading assignments around articles on the team’s history.

“Our tutors really became mentors and were viewed as role models,” Radtke said.

Jean Pratt said she’s volunteered to tutor students of all ages at other schools, but said the Painted Sky program is by far one of the best.

“Students who need help in reading need to be worked with in a one-on-one setting,” she said. “This is a very effective program to reach those goals.”

With no funding to pay volunteers, materials for the program have been purchased through donations from the school’s Parent Teacher Organization.

The tutoring program is slated to continue during the 2012-2013 school year, but Radtke continues to review expansion options by applying for various grants.

To learn more or to volunteer, contact Radtke at 696-3800.

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