Each month, the Tutor Spotlight will feature a Sunshine Method tutor who has gone above and beyond to engage with and inspire students to reach their fullest potential. Read on to meet our change-makers!
Anida is passionate about providing a space where students can feel heard and have their feelings and concerns validated. She understands the challenges that come with growing up differently abled and wanted to make sure all children have someone they can go to for support when they feel overwhelmed and discouraged.
What motivates you to tutor/mentor children in your community?
Originally, I am from Albania and my family moved here in 2000. The reason that I am tutoring is because in 2008, when I was 11 years old, I got into a wheelchair. I was diagnosed with Transverse myelitis, which is the inflammation of the spinal cord. One day, I woke up and within 15 minutes I lost the use of my legs. I spent the majority of my adolescence and all of my adulthood in a wheelchair. Originally, I was studying bio-med but I lost interest in that because I wondered what the point was and felt that bio-med was wrong for me. Someone suggested I study psychology and then I could eventually go into child psychology. In my culture, there is such a stigma around psychology. I remember people suggested that I see a psychologist after I got into a wheelchair and I protested that I didn't need that because I wasn’t crazy! But the truth is that it would have really helped me to receive professional help after going through what I went through. I want to help others who are in the situation I was in when I was 11. The quote, “Be who you needed when you were younger” really resonated with me.
What is your favorite thing about the Sunshine Method?
The Sunshine method targets in need children in low income communities and children who are struggling more than their peers. When I saw this job I knew it was for me because I have always been around children, growing up with many younger siblings. I've grown into this nurturing and caring role and I’m comfortable getting down to the child’s level to meet their needs.
How does the work you do with the Sunshine Method connect to your own personal values?
My family dynamic, coming from Albania, is that there is a parent and there is a child. There is no emphasis on validating children's feelings. It leads to children feeling unheard and that there is no one they can turn to. I want to be someone that someone else can depend on.
Describe the best session you have had with a child—your ‘Golden Teaching’ moment, if you will. What do you believe made it so successful?
When I was looking for a new student, I had two options for potential students. One of the students was described as having a lot of difficulties with focusing and behavioral problems. I like a challenge and I wanted a chance to grow as a tutor because my ultimate goal is to work with children with disabilities. I have worked with children with ADHD but I was still worried that I would not be able to keep him focused. The mother told me that his other tutors were not able to reach him and he used to hate going to tutoring. Now, we are constantly engaged and he enjoys the lessons. My approach is not that I am the authoritative tutor and he is the student. We are two equals and I am there to help him with this subject. The best sessions I have are with this student because I get down to the student’s level. Even his mother credited me and recognized that it takes passion because not many people are able to be so patient and understanding.
What role do you believe education plays in a child’s life?
Education comes from everything and anything. It is more than reading a book or studying math. Experiences and interactions are the key to development. We develop our identities through our experiences and the more we learn the more we discover who we want to be in life.
How has education changed your life?
Education has opened doors to so many different opportunities. If I had not gone into the academic field I would not have developed my interpersonal communication skills. It has allowed me to help others because I know who I am and what is important to me.
What is something that you’ve had to overcome?
Being in a wheelchair was incredibly difficult because I was only 11. It was a very traumatic experience and hard to come to terms with the fact that I had been walking ten minutes before and now I can’t. Having to learn everything from the beginning was very frustrating. I am hard on myself and when I cannot do something I get frustrated quickly which spirals into anger and questioning why something like this would happen to me. Overcoming this and learning to accept and embrace what happened to me has been a journey. Being in a wheelchair does not mean that my life is over and I can still make a difference in this world.
Do you think that that experience has allowed you to connect with the students that you tutor?
I definitely think so because I have a different type of empathy. Abled people are not able to understand exactly what a disabled person is feeling emotionally. I have a deeper understanding working with the disabled. My first student was in a wheelchair which was the coolest thing for me. His mom told me he was so happy when she told him that his tutor was in a wheelchair too. Having someone that they can relate to and know that when I go to them I understand what they are going through.
What advice would you give a child that is struggling or having difficulty with a subject?
Be patient with yourself and do not give up. Just because you don't understand something now does not mean you never will.
What advice would you give a person that is interested in tutoring/mentoring with the Sunshine Method?
Really listen to the students and be open to meeting the students where they are. Do not go based off of what you think they need without getting to know the student first. The main person to listen to is the student, even above the parent.
What are your hopes for your students in the future?
I hope that they understand that their greatness comes from within themselves, not from what other people say. Do not listen to the voice telling you that you are not good enough because you have the power to do anything that you are willing to work at.
Thank you for reading, and thank you Anida, for your contributions and impact on the next generation!