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Tutor Spotlight: Katie Etchison

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 Katie!

Share a little bit about yourself, (what is one fun fact!) and describe what motivates you to tutor/mentor children in your community.

I have a lot of experience working with kids in a lot of different settings, and my greatest passion is for children with special needs. I love working with children with autism and ADHD. I feel like sometimes teachers can get impatient with them and since I have special needs myself, I can relate to them very easily.

Most of my experience has been with elementary through high school for after-school help but then I got my degree in early childhood education. I discovered that I like mostly working with elementary age students however I can tutor older ages as well.

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

I'm a person with very high integrity and I’ve found that the employees of The Sunshine Method are very passionate about what they do. They're very patient and they also have a high level of integrity. They're also willing to adapt to not just student's communication needs, but also tutor's needs, as well. I had expressed certain things that I need for communication, and I was very happy when they were willing to adapt their communication to me as well.

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?

I was working with a 7th grade student. He has been with me for over 30 sessions now and he has multiple diagnosis. He's gone from starting at a first-grade level with me and now he's at a third grade, almost a fourth-grade level with me. It's been really rewarding to see his progress with the grade levels and it's taken a lot of work. We use a lot of manipulatives and a lot of videos.

At first it was kind of hard to get him to talk because he does have a medical diagnosis, but I like his energy and his enthusiasm, and he always looks forward to our lessons.

I have students that come to the sessions ready and happy to be there and it honestly it makes my day. When I'm having a bad day at home, I know that when I'm with a student it will just totally brighten up my day.

What kind of progress have you seen your children make?

My student was nonverbal autistic when I first started working with him. However, he became verbal within less than five sessions of working with me. I'm a very visual kinesthetic learner myself and so I'm able to adapt that to other children. It was just, again, really rewarding especially when you have parents that are willing to be supportive too. I've had more than one child like that with autism that started out as almost completely nonverbal or mentally nonverbal and they've become verbal with me because I'm able to prompt them.

I use a bunch of different activities compared to what they would normally use in the classroom. With a student who is nonverbal there's a lot of using the chat box to start out with. I breakdown a lot of information, I use a lot of gestures to communicate, I use a lot of YouTube videos like phonics videos. For math we use manipulatives such as cubes or logs or something that's fun for them.

What advice would you give a person that is interested in tutoring/mentoring with the Sunshine Method?

They have very high standards and I encourage everyone to apply. However, it has to be the right fit and you have to have a very high level of patience. That’s not to say that you can't do it if you're just starting out because if you have the patience, our company is willing to coach you and help you. I think the biggest thing is that you have to have a positive attitude. You have to have patience with the students, patience with the family, and you have to be ready to go beyond just what the job requires you to do. You have to have a true passion for it, because if you don't people will be able to tell. To me it's all about the passion.

I plan on being with The Sunshine Method as long as I work, so that right there says it all!

What are your hopes for your students in the future?

I hope that the students and families will try to duplicate similar communication methods in the school so that way when they’re either done with The Sunshine Method, or they change schools, or whatever it may be, they know what methods work for them and they can go use that wherever they go.

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