Volunteer relates math lessons to life

MU student helps children find ‘A Way’ to school success.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:37 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Upon entering Kimberly Euliss’ fifth-grade classroom at Russell Boulevard Elementary School, volunteer tutor Meg Morrissey waved to students as they squirmed in their chairs with excitement.

Morrissey, an MU senior majoring in English, tutors for A Way with Words and Numbers, a partnership between MU and Columbia Public Schools. On a recent Wednesday, she took four students from Euliss’ class to the library to practice and review math skills that gave them trouble earlier in the week.

Since 1996, A Way With Words and Numbers has given MU graduate and undergraduate students an opportunity to help students master literacy and math skills. Teams of tutors visit 18 sites in the Columbia community to tutor for at least four hours a week.

One goal of the program is to provide a positive experience for all involved. That’s been true for Morrissey, who finds meaning in making a positive difference in a child’s life.

“I do feel like I have a connection with the students,” she said, “but it’s just because I’m a people person.”

The connection is obvious — both the boys and girls were eager to get extra math help from “Miss Meg.” She tried to relate math to their lives and encouraged them to put themselves in the problem. For example, as they plotted points on a graph, the students were supposed to imagine themselves traveling from one point to another.

And Morrissey did this while making them laugh and smile.

“Meg has a great deal of initiative as a tutor,” said Julie Wagner, who coordinates A Way With Words and Numbers with MU’s Career Center. “She is not afraid to try new ways of teaching an idea if a student is struggling to understand.”

Although she still isn’t sold on a career in education, Morrissey enjoys her time at the elementary school helping students.

“I don’t know if I could do what these teachers do every day,” she said with admiration.

Morrissey works with different students from week to week, and tries to infuse them with optimism. “You think you’ll do this when you get to college?” she asked 11-year-old Ben Galbreath.

“If I get a good education,” Ben replied.

Said Morrissey: “I bet you will.”

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