Culture / Newsy

Students Helping Students — New Free Online Tutoring Service Has Standout High Schoolers Volunteering to Assist Their Peers

Teaching To Give Looks to Shrink the Virtual Learning Gap

BY // 10.05.20

School looks very different for kids across Texas this year. Yellow school buses and after school activities have been swapped for laptops and Microsoft Teams meetings. Virtual school is no picnic. It brings a whole new set of stresses and some challenges that many never imagined.

It is not always easy to get help with a subject when you cannot visit with your teacher face-to-face.

A group of standout Houston high school students are stepping up to help their fellow students — for free. Say hello to Teaching To Give, one of the more unique solutions to help bridge the virtual learning gap. This is an online tutoring service run by students for students.

Hearing how many of their peers were struggling with the new school realities, the founders of Teaching To Give (all kids going to Houston area high schools) quickly formed a team able to tutor younger students on a wide variety of subjects.

“Most of us attend HSPVA (Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts) so we all met there and became friends and then a lot of our other contacts we met through piano competitions,” Teaching to Give vice president Hayden Miller says in describing how the group first formed. “And we reached out to many different people to see if people would be interested.”

Teaching To Give tutors kids from kindergarten through eighth grade and covers all the core subjects (science, math, English and social studies) as well as extracurriculars such as debate, the arts and multiple foreign languages.

“We eventually gathered a very diverse background and we even got some interest from our Instagram page as well so that helped us gather even more diversity,” Miller says.

Teaching To Give is led by a seven-person board consisting of president Weillison Hsu, Hayden Miller, Lina Wu, Amy Park, Fiona Condron, Rushil Chetty and Ashley Chu.

Being students in these strange coronavirus times themselves, the founders can relate to and understand the challenges and frustrations of virtual learning in a way that traditional tutors cannot. These tutors are virtual students, too.

“We had some teachers that became sick and we suffered educationally because of that,” Miller says. “And (the teachers) had to take a leave of absence so we wanted to find a way to give back to them and help out with the community.”

Filling the School Supply Void

One of the ways Teaching to Give is helping is by spearheading a school supply drive. After consulting with HISD administrators, Teaching To Give’s leaders decided to focus on collecting needed supplies for Fourth Ward school Gregory-Lincoln Education Center’s fine arts magnet program. The TTG supply drive, dubbed Project Pencil, will be an ongoing effort to supply schools in need. Teaching To Give is holding a contactless school supply drop-off event this Saturday, October 10 from 9 am to 11 am at the HSPVA campus in downtown Houston.

This free student helping students tutoring program first launched on September 8 — and it’s already expanding its vision.

“Our president, Weillison Hsu, came up with the initial idea and he texted me about it around May,” Miller says.

Weillison was “inspired to create this tutoring organization and over the course of time our vision has kind of shifted into more also providing resources for people who cannot access educational tools that they need to be able to thrive in the schooling system which can create many problems depending on privilege and stuff like that,” Miller says.

Teaching to Give website homepage
Teaching to Give’s website is designed to be easy to navigate.

The free tutoring is conducted through the unofficial app of the pandemic — Zoom. Interested students start by filling out a tutor match form to ensure they are assigned to the right tutor to help them. Teaching To Give’s tutoring approach is unique in that it is highly specialized and personal to each individual student’s needs.

The first session is dedicated to assessing the new student’s needs and the rest of the Zoom sessions will help the student in the areas he or she is struggling in the most. The tutoring lasts either 30 or 45 minutes per session depending on the subject.

Teaching To Give’s student founders hope to make it so that all students, no matter their financial background, have access to personalized tutoring and one-on-one help from their peers.

Virtual learning is not easy, but these high school standouts want to help their younger peers one free tutoring session at a time.

To learn more or to schedule a tutoring session, check out Teaching to Give’s full website. If you want to contribute to the school supply drive, here are some of the supplies needed:

Crayola watercolor set. — 8 colors
Crayola watercolor set — 16 colors
Paintbrushes — different sizes
8×11 Heavyweight drawing paper or individual sketchbooks
Sakura cray-pas oil pastels, assorted colors, set of 16
Sharpies (black, fine point)
Ticonderoga pencils
Colored pencils
Elmer’s glue
Hand-held pencil sharpeners
Prismacolor 6B pencils

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