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Tutor Spotlight: Gina B.


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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!


Meet Gina!

Gina came from Jamaica with her parents when she was a child. She grew up in Chicago and now lives in the Sunshine State of Florida! She tutored her own children during the pandemic, and after she graduated, she worked in schools while deciding whether or not she wanted to become a teacher. She decided to pursue social services instead. Gina has been tutoring at The Sunshine Method since November 2021 and is very passionate about her work!  One fun fact about Gina is that she is an avid animal lover. She even wanted to be a veterinarian because she loves animals, especially dogs, so much!

We had the opportunity to talk with Gina about why she became an educator and why education is so important in a child's life. 

Join the conversation below:

What motivates you to tutor children in your community?

Since I do social services, I see the impact of when kids don't get that educational edge. I like to say that 'kids don't fail school, schools fail kids.' Sometimes we need to have a different approach to how each child learns, so I try to teach them on an individualized basis. It makes me happy when they actually get the concept because that gives them that edge.

What is your favorite thing about The Sunshine Method?

They appear so understanding and so user-friendly. A lot of times, nowadays, jobs are very like, 'Oh, you did this, so you did this wrong.' There was no learning curve. When I first got hired, I was so used to being in this world that we live in now where people are not understanding that it takes a while to learn things, not just for the kids but for us as tutors. I was like, 'oh my calendar, my monthly report.' Everything was like, 'I hope they don't get upset.' I don't understand everything so anytime I reach out, I receive a, 'yeah, no problem.' I like that they're human in their approach, like 'okay, so you made a mistake, it's okay.' This is how you do it. I like that!

How does the work you do with The Sunshine Method connect to your values?

As a mom of six, I value education and enabling people. The Sunshine Method's work also enables children to go further - that fits in with my set of values. I see what happens. I know we're seeing a lot of [communities] where there [is] no emphasis on education, so these people, no matter who they are, slip through the cracks. So it's very important to me, and I love the philosophy behind Sunshine Method. They really get it. 

Describe the best experience you have had working with a child—your ‘Golden Teaching’ moment, if you will. What do you believe made it so successful?

It was a pair of children. They were very open and had a great mother who was on board. As tutors, we need that parent to back us up, and that mom was on point, and I loved it. There were so many a-ha moments with that first set of kids. If it were the holidays, we would center our sessions around the holidays. They were so open and happy to learn. It was not a chore. It was a joy.

What kind of long-term progress have you seen your children make?

I've seen some in reading comprehension because I'm often called to do reading comprehension. I've seen some kids go from, 'hey, I want you to do an essay for me' and it's one long text. By the end, they're doing full essays. Sometimes I'm like, 'I don't even recognize what this is, but okay, we're gonna work on this.' Then in the future, they're fluent and they begin to understand. I had a little girl the other day and we were working on compare and contrast, essays, and fairy tales. I was throwing things out there. We were doing okay. The theme was the wolf being the bad guy in fairy tales. It was awesome to go back and forth with that little girl like that when she didn't start out like that. She had become so proficient. I mean, she still has a way to go, she's a fifth-grader, and she's still starting.

What role do you believe education plays in a child's life?

Education fosters a sense of curiosity which fosters a sense of independence, which is important because [we are] going to need that independence later on. It fosters free-thinking. There are so many roles that education plays in a child's life. Not just 'hey, I've got a certificate.' A child at that level becomes more well-rounded and more curious about the world around them, and more open to learning. Hence, education is an important part of a child's life. It's like an awakening to the world around you when you're tiny. You're like, 'okay, well, I'm not thinking about those things,' but as time goes on, here comes abstract thinking and different levels of math and other ways to express yourself. Education fosters that.

How has education changed your life and how has it changed your children’s lives that you work with?

In Jamaica, I went to kindergarten for what they call basic school. I was three years of age making sentences. So, in education, I was always very proficient in reading, and that's why I love to teach it. It changed my life and turned me into somebody who could easily express myself. When I was a child in Jamaica, there was an emphasis on those reading skills. So that changed my life. I'm very able to express myself quite well but wish I was great with math. However, hey, I can still teach math. I'm not saying no but, education has given me a leg up in life.

As for the children, they're still changing, so I don't know yet. The ones that I teach are fairly young. They're elementary school level. Still, I think how it has changed them is that they're questioning now. You start to see those wheels turning. They're starting to become curious and they're starting to question things that are around them in everyday life.

What is something that you have had to overcome?

I had to overcome my accent as I came up here. What you're hearing now is an Americanized accent; however, as a child coming up from Jamaica and having people always tell you that they don't understand you, I had to change my accent to relate to people in America. It can lead to a sense of shame when you have an accent because sometimes people think if you have an accent, you are less intelligent. No, you're not less intelligent. You just have an accent because you come from somewhere else.

What do you think it takes to be a Sunshine Method tutor? 

Patience. Not all the kids are at the same level, and you have to understand that. You also need to be understanding. Each child learns differently so, you can't take a blanket approach to every fifth grader you teach. Some fifth graders struggle with one thing, and another is struggling with another thing. Some just need that extra help. I have to seek and assess the issue and tailor my teaching to that. I try to gain their trust so I'll do something like ice breakers and help them understand, 'OK, I'm your mentor and your tutor.' I want them to develop a relationship with me as someone who assists them. 

What advice would you give a child that is struggling or having difficulty with a subject?

I would let the child know that it's not because they are not capable of learning. I would let them know that they are no worse off than anybody else just because they're struggling with learning, because kids' self-esteem is affected when they are struggling with learning. I would let them know this has no impact on how you are as a person and reach out to your teacher. Reach out to mom and dad, 'Can we get a tutor? Can I get extra help?'

Do you have any tips or strategies when you're working with a child (in person or online) to keep them engaged?

It depends on the age. When I have a younger child, I've had to truly become a comedian with puppets, toys, and everything. So, for my younger kids, I keep toys and flashcards. It depends on how the child learns. For older kids, I always start the session with an ice breaker. I do math jeopardy for 4th grade or foods of the world on jeopardy-- things that they like. I try to find something they like and play that game. I did a tic-tac-toe game with a child, and every time he'd get the answer right, he was able to put his X. Then I put my little O. I just try to start everything with a game. It's not just, 'I'm here. You've been in school all day. I'm here to just push work at you and see how you're doing.' No, I just want them to relax with me.

What advice would you give to other tutors?

Be patient and try to build a rapport with your children. There are times that it takes a while before the child responds to you. Don't be so hard on yourself because we're dealing with kids who have different needs, and sometimes it takes three or four sessions before that child actually responds. I had a child recently and it was difficult during the first few sessions. However, we kept on. I had little toys and everything. At first, he really didn't seem to notice that I was there because he is very young. So, the other day I got up to get the flashcards and he said,  "Gina, where are you going?" Every time I got up during the lesson to get other toys, he would say, "Gina, where are you?" I was in the same room but had gone to get the toys. I said, "I'm coming back!" It was good to finally hear him acknowledge that I was there. Sometimes it takes a while to breakthrough. 

What are your hopes for your students in the future?

I hope that every child that I had the honor of tutoring goes on to excel in their own right. I hope that one day they can look back and say, "I learned this because Gina taught that to me."

Thank you for reading, and thank you, Gina, for your contributions and impact on the next generation!