Every other month you can find a new “Get to know our tutors” video right here on our blog. This month we get to know Ashley Reaume. Not only is she a great reading and spelling remediation tutor, she is also our lead instructor for our Small-Group Writing Workshops.
Hi, I’m Heather Desjardins and we’re doing another “Get to Know Your Tutors” and today we have Ashley Reaume. Hi Ashley!
How are you?
I’m good thanks, you?
Me too, thanks!
So, the first question I have is, how long have you been working with us?
I’ve been with The Open Door about three years. Yes, I started September 2017.
It feels like longer! Feels like you’ve been with us forever!
Yep! It’s always been this way.
And why is it that you got into the field of education?
It was a couple of things. So I was always on of those kids who just really liked school. And then I was also fortunate enough to have a couple of really good teachers that had a big impact on me and just made me love school even more. So, I think I wanted to be able to give that same thing back to other learners.
Yeah, I find that the teachers that a student has when they are growing up, so many people who have gone into education, including myself, it was usually one or two really phenomenal teachers that they had.
Yes, they always stick with you.
So, you’ve also been teaching our Small-Group Writing Workshops as well as the reading and spelling tutoring. Why don’t you tell us a bit about that program and some of the strides that you seen some of these students taking with it?
Sure! So we started doing it in person. It’s always small groups so that the teacher to student ratio is really nice and we’re able to individualize and customize it if need be. To be able to play games, and see students’ creativity come out a little bit more through their writing. And obviously see how they progress throughout.
And with that program, what are some of the approaches that are used to actually teach that writing skill, which is something that so many students struggle with?
Yes, definitely. So we use The Institute for Excellence in Writing Program curriculum. It’s called “Structure and Style”. I would describe it as just basically like a fool-proof step-by-step way of learning strategies and implementing those strategies to improve your writing. It was even helpful for me to go through it and to think about it. So, we do things like breaking down and analyzing short stories, and figuring out what’s the most important information, and what do we think about the title? Learning that words make us feel one way, and what would happen if we replaced them another word, would that make us feel another way about the story or about the characters? And then implementing those same ideas and strategies into their own writing. So it’s just a way to ensure that it’s an organized, interesting piece of writing.
And I think that whole key is about that Structure and Style, right? It is such a structure approach, where they really can follow actual steps.
Definitely. I think that’s why it works really well. It’s not specifically designed for learners with learning disabilities, but I think that’s why it works so well with a lot of the students from The Open Door. It’s because it’s so similar to tutoring in that it’s very, very structured. It does allow for some flexibility and some creativity, but it’s very clear what the expectations are, so it’s easy to follow. And it just gets very progressively, just a little bit more difficult every week. So I think it’s really manageable.
Yeah, and I mean that’s the sign of a good program, is that it could be designed for any type of learner, but it’s so well designed that it’s successful with your ones who struggle with all different areas.
And you were saying it starts off slowly and gets more and more difficult as the student is ready for it, and then of course, that includes when they’re signing up for a second or a third round of the Writing Workshop. They actually increase in terms of the content that they’re taking on as well, with the levels.
Exactly, there’s like a beginner, intermediate, and advance. So we have students come back for a second and third round. We basically have a checklist every week to make sure that they’re including certain elements to improve that writing. And so that checklist just gets a little bit longer, the texts get a little more difficult. It’s not just a one-and-done. You can always be improving.
And then of course, the most recent round we did a quick, last-minute shift to switching to the online format, which we hadn’t done before for the Small-Group Workshop. We’ve been doing that for our online tutoring. I know we had a lot of positive feedback so you did well.
So, what it is that’s your favourite thing about the work that you do with The Open Door?
I think, what like the most about it is that, especially for the tutoring, it’s one-on-one and it’s long-term. So, you really get to know your students and their strengths and their weaknesses, and what they like and what they don’t like, and to bond with them. It allows me to teach in a much more contextualized way that’s specific to that student, as opposed to if you had a class of thirty kids and you’re just trying to do your best! And to make sure everybody’s doing OK. You really, really get to know the students and celebrate the achievements that you know are really big for them
Yeah, definitely. I mean, even back when I was working in the school setting before starting The Open Door, that was one of the big, big things I loved about working in special education. It was, again, that one-on-one, not just over the course of one term, so that you really can tailor it specifically to that student and build that relationship.
So I definitely can relate to that. It just makes such a big difference.
So, I’m going to ask you a few questions that are just a little more fun and light. What is a fun fact about you that your students wouldn’t necessarily know?
I don’t think that this is something my students know, but I’ve lived in four countries.
Four countries! I can guess one of them!
Yes, Canada, of course.
What about the other ones?
The United States, I was in San Diego, California for a summer. And then I was in Spain for a year, and I was in South Korea for a year and a half.
Oh yeah, very nice. And South Korea and Spain, you were there teaching. Is that correct?
Wow. And what is it that you like to do to unwind?
I really like cooking. I just find it really, like, meditative for me. And the bonus is that you get something really yummy at the end! So, that doesn’t hurt either.
It’s nice to have an activity that you like to do to unwind, being something that’s a necessity of life.
Yes, it’s helpful! Very helpful!
I’m always envious of people who like to cook, or clean or do gardening as something to unwind. Well gardening isn’t a necessity of life, but you know what I mean!
Having a productive unwinding activity is nice. My unwinding activities, none of them are productive at all!
Yeah, well I guess that’s the only, the most, like “talk-about-able” one! The other is like laying on the couch watching YouTube or whatever.
Fair enough! Yes, I can see why you went with the cooking. “I like to just lay there and stare at the wall for a long time!”
So, I’m going to ask you a few rapid-fire questions.
The first thing that just pops into your head. You don’t have to give it a lot of thought. And they’re just sort-of light and fun.
What’s your favourite summer activity?
What time did you go to bed last night?
Later than usual. I think 11:00.
Oh, that’s not bad!
What’s your greatest source of procrastination?
YouTube? There we go!
Just watching videos, going down these rabbit-holes.
Yeah, oh, unfortunately I can relate to that.
Would you rather be able to turn invisible or fly?
Hmm, fly, for sure.
Me too. Alright, this one’s a little more challenging. Describe your life in one word.
Mmm that is challenging!
I know, I know!
My life in one word…an adventure.
Oh that’s a good one!
We’ll put it on a poster. Good answer!
So the last thing that I’m going to ask you is, if you could share just a brief little story with us. Some really great moment that you’ve had that stood out working with one of your students.
There have been a bunch, there are definitely a few moments that stick with me. One of them is this learner that I have, and for a few months it was a struggle to adjust and figure out how she worked best. But after a few months, it was just like an offhand comment, but was really powerful to me. She just said, out of nowhere, “I think this is the only time that I learn.” It was like, “what? What?” First of all, that’s, she said, “in school I’m behind” and something to the effect of, like she just doesn’t think it’s the best learning environment for her, “and my parents try to help me with my homework but they don’t always understand it. So I think this is really the only time that I learn.”
And as much as that was heartbreaking, it was also, just speaks to the power of us being able to work one-on-one and figuring out how she learns best. And definitely rewarding, letting me know that. That it’s actually working, and that she’s actually connecting and learning and enjoying the experience.
Oh, that makes a lot of sense. And especially when you start off, you know, it’s a little more difficult. If the student maybe has more barriers and struggles. And as much as, you know, one would assume that she still is learning some other things, working with you is when she has the confidence to know.
I think it’s smart actually. Yeah. I think that realization.
It speaks a lot to her sentiments about the fact that it is actually working for her and she can feel good about that.
Alright, well, that was all that we needed to ask you about today. So thanks for taking a little time to chat and let us get to know you a little better. And I hope that you have a good rest of your weekend.
Thank you, same to you.