A Month of Thanksgiving: What Makes a Good Tutor?



Joan Hovan, Project: LEARN tutor

Joan Hovan has been a tutor with Project: LEARN of Medina County for many years.  Here are her thoughts on being a tutor:

Joan:  “I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college.  I could have, I wanted to, but my generation did not have those opportunities. I didn’t get married until I was in my middle 20s.  It was a different lifestyle, you know.  I raised my family as a stay at home mom, then one day I decided “I want to do a part-time job somewhere,” and so I did that.  And then I went to a full time job.  And I had an opportunity when I worked with a big corporation, to go back to school. I mean, I had my high school diploma, but I had a chance to go to college.  And I did!  I went to Baldwin Wallace and got my degree! My kids were in high school.  I’m hoping that I influenced them and inspired them to go on. I did every other weekend in college.  I already had some Tri-C credits, some from Fenn College.  When I got my Tri-C diploma, I thought, well, if I can do the two year then I can probably go on to four years, so I went on to BW. So I was 51 or 52 when I got my degree.  It was all because I worked for a company that encouraged their employees to be learners.  So I understand better what our learners are going through.  I did go to school at night at Tri-C, and I don’t know how I fit all that in…my husband worked split shifts, but we managed.  If you really want to do it, you will do it. That was my goal, so I did it.  I walked the stage in my black gown.  I can’t even tell you how I felt…it was maybe like being in a fog.  I accomplished something for me.  I hope I inspire people by being a tutor and a volunteer, I want to inspire people to be better, if they want to be better.”

[What are the important qualities that a tutor should have in order to be successful in this role?]

Joan:  You create a bond between your student and you.  They learn to trust you.  I think that’s a very big part of tutoring.  It took me a couple of students to realize that.  Trust is very important.  It’s not what you look like, it’s not what you have—I present myself as a retired person now—I have time, I can adapt to my student’s schedule.  And then you form this friendship, whether it’s a man or a woman, that you’re never going to lose.  Maybe once in a while, that little phone call, “How are you doing?”, will give them encouragement.  “What are you doing now?  Oh, you’re going to Tri-C?  Did you ever think you’d be doing that?  Did you ever think you’d be filling out an application to a specialized school, that you really wanted to do?”  So the confidence factor is phenomenal in most of my students.

I don’t have a teaching degree—my degree is business.  But that isn’t necessary.  Life experience comes into play also when you tutor a person.  We apply what we learn throughout our lives.

Tutors need patience.  And some personal experience with dealing with other people.  You have to put yourself into the student’s situation.  They want to be better.  So we have to try to understand where they are coming from, their family background, their education, that’s very important.

It’s certainly a challenge.  You don’t conquer this in 6 months.  It’s an ongoing challenge, and you may have some setbacks, but you keep working at it.  Persistence.  That’s a good word for it.  I truly want to inspire people to be better, if they want to be better.”

Joan has been a dedicated Project: LEARN tutor for several students over the years, helping them to change their lives by passing the GED test, learning English as a second language, or improving their literacy skills.  Please support our fall fundraiser, so Joan and our other tutors can continue to have the books, workbooks, calculators and other supplies they need to help their students on their learning journey.  Donate here, and thank you to Joan and all of the wonderful tutors at Project: LEARN, changing lives for over 33 years!


Tim Dentler, supervising tutor at Project: LEARN in Brunswick, speaking with Joan Hovan

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *