Wright State student Vanessa McKenzie started out as an art major interested in fashion design. But now she’s switching her major to middle childhood education. The reason? The children of Valerie Elementary.
McKenzie originally walked into the office of Career Services just looking for a job—any job. She picked a tutoring position at Valerie Elementary because her cousins had attended the school.
“Something just said go here,” she said, “and I went with my gut instinct, and I’ve been there ever since.”
McKenzie works with groups of students at Valerie Elementary on reading comprehension, helping them make it through books they are reading in class. She is one of many tutors who have invested their time at the elementary over the last ten years helping the school move from “continuous improvement” to an “excellent” rating.
McKenzie said that while fashion design was a hobby she enjoyed, working with children is something she will never get tired of, even if she does it every day. But it was only through tutoring at Valerie Elementary that she realized this.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be in the classroom and see how the kids interact with the teacher,” she said. “So I’ve decided I want to be a teacher.”
She also said that working one on one with students, or in small groups, has helped her better understand what kids need from their teacher to succeed in school.
She helps students who need to be brought up to the skill level of their peers by giving them extra attention and praising them for a job well done.
“That motivates them to do better because they can see that they can do the work,” she said.
Students recently received another motivation in the form of an Oprah Winfrey/Target Media Center Makeover. The school’s library was overhauled and stocked with new technology, new furniture, and 2,000 new books. Students each took home seven new books to add to their own collection.
McKenzie said the new library is beautiful, and that the students absolutely love it and spend hours reading there. The new library is also tangible evidence of the students’ drive to succeed academically.
“The kids boast of the fact that they’re a school of excellence, and I love that,” said McKenzie.
She recommended the Career Services reading tutor program to anyone interested in working with children and especially encouraged applicants to pick Valerie Elementary.
“The teachers are wonderful, the principal is amazing and the students are just doll babies. I love them all,” she said.