Each month, we’ll be introducing you to a new School on Wheels staff member so you can learn more about the people who make our programs run successfully! This month, we’ll highlight Tonia Carriger, one of our Program Coordinators who manages tutoring every evening at our partner locations and makes it all happen. Tonia became a Program Coordinator after winning our Tutor of the Year Award in 2014 – read on to learn more about her!
What is your role at School on Wheels?
I am the Program Coordinator at The Julian Center and Greenbriar Elementary.
How does your role fit into the mission of School on Wheels?
I feel like I have a few roles within the organization – I’m a Program Coordinator, I still tutor every week and I also support our parents. All of these work to support the School on Wheels mission of one-on-one tutoring and academic advocacy for students – which is great, because these kiddos need all of the support we can give them.
What did you do before you came here?
Years ago I started out as a middle school teacher, then a high school teacher. After that, I became a trainer/project manager/business development for an educational technology non-profit.
Why did you decide to join the School on Wheels team?
I read about School on Wheels in an Indianapolis Star feature and was intrigued. At the time, I was looking for another more meaningful way to support students, because I was winding down my time on a school board. I submitted my information on the website to volunteer, was trained and was totally hooked!
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
My favorite part of my job is being the stable but comforting constant in a student’s life – which means smiles, hugs, frustrations, grouchy moods and pouty faces – but when you can see the spark of a smile from a grouchy mood or a pouty face, it makes it all worth while! My second favorite part is being a sounding board and support for parents.
What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
I don’t think I’m surprising in the least, but people might be surprised that I swim 3 mornings a week and solve most of the world’s problems as I do my laps (unfortunately, I forget most of the solutions by the time I finish!).
Can you share one of your favorite tutoring stories?
One of my favorite stories from tutoring: One day, I was trying to jazz up spelling and make it more hands-on for one of my struggling learners, so I brought in shaving cream so that she could practice her spelling words by writing them in shaving cream on the table. It was so funny how students who had NOT had spelling words all year long, SUDDENLY had spelling words they needed to practice by writing them in shaving cream. It was too fun – the more the merrier!
If you could share one thing with those who are new to School on Wheels, what would it be?
I hope people understand that the little bit of time that they give to the kids makes a HUGE impact. As a tutor, I didn’t see it, but as a Program Coordinator, I DO see how the kids look forward to seeing their tutors and spending time with them.
Want to learn more about ways that you can help support our students? RSVP today for our 2015 Education: Be the Solution to Childhood Trauma on 11/11 at Clowes Memorial Hall!