We’re moving! We’ll be located at 2955 North Meridian Street, Suite 250, Indianapolis, 46208 starting June 1. Reach us at kids@indysow.org and 317.202.9100.

Last year, I was honored with the Runner-Up National Teacher of the Year award, presented by Toyota Motor Corporation and the National Center for Family Literacy. I traveled to San Diego to receive the award and present to the conference attendees about the work we do at School on Wheels.

I was honored once again last month when the National Center for Family Literacy asked me to come to their conference in Louisville to lead a session on “Connecting with the Toughest to Reach.” Not only did I share with a national audience the amazing things that are happening at School on Wheels, but I also had the opportunity to learn new ideas for educating children and engaging parents in the process.

As I reflect on my days in Louisville, here are some great lessons I learned.

  • The Common Core Standards work to support students before they struggle. There are some basic vocabulary words within each discipline that all students should know in order to succeed. For example, in science, all sixth-grade students should know the meaning of words like aquatic, atmosphere, density, and revolution. Look for lists of these “Academic Vocabulary” words at tutoring next year!
  • I learned about some outstanding educational opportunities for students on iPads. Many apps and sites will be available in the coming school year for our students. Look for workshops in the winter to help you work with students on iPads.
  • To engage parents, ask them not only what their child is struggling with, but also what their child does well. What are her hobbies? What does he like to do in his spare time? What is she really good at? We are going to incorporate these questions in our intake process next year, and we will share the answers with our tutors.
  • Always keep an open mind and be ready to learn from our students. As Reverend Brenda Girton-Mitchell of the United States Department of Education said during her presentation, “My right hand holds the hand of someone who knows less than me, and I teach. My left hand holds the hand of someone who knows more than me, and I learn.” I’ve learned so much from our students. I hope you are learning, too!

The National Center for Family Literacy conference was an incredible experience. During the final day, author James Patterson spoke during the closing session. Afterwards, he signed copy of his newest bestseller. As I stood in line, I was in awe of a person who has touched so many with a love for literacy. When it was my turn to talk to Mr. Patterson, he told me HE was in awe of ME and what we all do at School on Wheels! What an honor!

I know that I could never do this great work without the support of an amazing staff, invested donors and dedicated volunteer tutors. So, thank you for inspiring me each day to constantly learn, grow and provide rich opportunities for our kids. To have the opportunity to work with inspiring children, caring volunteers, and amazing co-workers each week is a dream come true.


Karen Routt

Program Manager at School on Wheels