Tutoring program learning retirees are great teachers

Bob Howie is currently searching for students to fill his Village Tutors summer math classes, but he’s also looking to round up helpers for his regular tutoring program in the fall.

Village Tutors offers free assistance for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade who live in Buckley and Enumclaw.

Retirees, Howie said, make good tutors and have plenty to offer young people.

“This is a win-win opportunity for both kids and tutors,” Howie said. “Our kids, mostly middle school and elementary, need tutoring in math, reading, language arts, science and history. Our volunteer tutors relearn and share with our kids. Our tutors also include high school honor students, so there is plenty of generation-gap coverage.”

Retired engineers Lyle Jones and Doug Stratton took the plunge this year.

“I’ve always liked to teach,” said Jones, who spent 30 years as a senior research engineer with The Boeing Co. “When I was working full-time, one of my jobs was to teach the younger engineers.

“It’s amazing how much you can help them.”

Once a week, he concentrates his efforts on math.

“The kids that come there want to learn,” Jones said.

He finds great joy in watching a student find success.

“When a student gets it – when the light comes on and they say, ‘Oh, I get it,’ – that’s part of the fun of tutoring.

“It’s great for anyone who enjoys teaching and watching kids learn,” he said.

Howie said many of Village Tutors’ kids need assistance in basic skills like reading, writing, social studies, science and history.

“You can do that,” he tells retirees or work-at-home types who are interested.

Some of kids need tutoring in math, like facts, fractions, percentage and problem solving.

“You can do that,” he says.

“I find most of the students who struggle don’t have the fundamentals,” Stratton said, and he’s good with the basics. Howie said the math usually does not go beyond algebra or geometry, and textbooks and on-line tools are available.

“If you were good at it once, you’ll be good at it again,” Howie said. “Math hasn’t changed in 50 years. Some of the ways it’s being taught have changed, but math hasn’t changed.”

It’s a weekly commitment between 6 to 8 p.m. at the Buckley Youth Activity Center. For information on becoming a tutor, call Howie at 650-714-6900 or e-mail

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