Community Voices - Maureen Simen

Copy of Maureen SimenMaureen Simen received her BA from Michigan-Flint in English and Social Sciences.  She then pursued a Masters in Reading Education from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.  She has years of experience in curriculum design and development, as well as educational technology.  Currently, Maureen works at the Bonner Center for Service and Learning as the Coordinator for America Reads.  Outside of work, she enjoys fixing up her house as well as relaxing and reading the classics.  Her love for reading is seen in her job, where she inspires college students involved in the America Reads program to volunteer in many schools around the Oberlin area to promote literacy.

Q. What is the America Reads program?

A. America Reads is a community service work-studies program run out of the Bonners Center for Service and Learning here at Oberlin College. My job as coordinator is to hire, train and place Oberlin College students to be reading tutors in the Oberlin City School District grades pre-K through 8th. We also place tutors at Oberlin Early Childhood center, which is a preschool program, and at the boys and girls club which is an after school program.

Q. How did you get involved in this project?

A. Well, I was looking for a job, and Bo Arbogast, who was the director of the education outreach office here at the Bonners Center for Service and Learning, said that this position was being created. It didn’t exist before as a separate position; it was part of the director’s job.  I was a high school English and government teacher for 10 years, and then I was a private tutor in New Jersey for 7 years. I have a masters degree in reading and writing education, I had experience hosting events for children.  Part of America Reads, the big thing, is Doctor Seuss Day, and we just added stem night along with other literacy events. So it just felt like a perfect fit for what I’ve done in the past and our situation.

Q. Do you have any stories from the project that you’d like to share?

A. I wish tutors were here, they tell the best stories about the kids. The hardest part of my job is that I don’t actually get to work directly with the kids. The tutors are always telling me stories. I really enjoy hearing the stories, how much the tutors are connecting with the kids and how much they’re enjoying working with them. It’s always heartening to hear about tutors who have gone on to teaching programs. Oberlin doesn’t have a teaching program, so you pretty much have to move on to it. I don’t know how pleased Oberlin College would be to hear this, but one of my tutors left Oberlin College to go to another college because she wanted to get a teaching certificate, and that’s a big decision to make.

Q. Who can get involved and how?

A. America Reads is open to Oberlin College students who have work-study and those without. I do place volunteers, primarily in the Langston Middle School. Generally people who apply have worked with children before or have a very positive attitude about reading and want to give back to the community.

Q. How do you think that America Reads promotes social sustainability or community health?

A. The America reads program provides support to the school district and individual teachers. Children are able to receive free one-on-one tutoring that the school district cannot afford, parents cannot afford. We do not tutor outside the school district. We work in conjunction with a classroom teacher or a site supervisor. In addition at our literacy events we give away books, we have crafts, and face painting. We also sustain and hopefully improve college-town relations, as well as providing children the opportunity to have a book that they get to pick out, and they get to keep. We also hope that we sustain the very hard work that teachers do every day to help children learn to read.

Q. What have you enjoyed about working with Bradley?

A. The few chances that I’ve had to observe Bradley in the classroom I’ve been pleased to see the level of engagement that he has with the children. That’s always my top priority with the tutors; are you connecting with the kids even if it’s not one-on-one are you getting into the mix, and I do see him doing that. I’m also appreciative of the fact that he’s open to suggestions and he certainly seems to enjoy being there.

Q. How do you think living here has changed your outlook on the environment and what you can do to be a part of the culture that the town has?

A. This is something that is not part of my job, but it’s something that I feel very strongly about, and that is the preservation of old homes in this town. Our house was built in 1910 and the first workman who came out immediately said, “Oh, you need to rip out these windows and replace them.” I mean, so they’re going to go in a landfill and they’re going to be replaced by a man-made object, and they’re not going to be right for my house because every window in my house was handcrafted for that space, and I’ve seen when they’ve inserted new windows into old houses and that house begins to shift, those windows stay in the same place, and then all those wonderful gasses that give us energy efficiency leak out and they’re not as good. I know there’s a lot of energy saving projects going on around this town, and I don’t want to step on the toes of the people who are doing very good work here, but that is something that I do talk about with people a little bit; ways that you can maintain the character of your home, but still have energy efficiency and have it be environmentally sound. We don’t need more stuff thrown away. We need to find a way to work with the materials that are there. When people throw out vinyl and aluminum siding on these old homes, like, how many more beige houses do we need in this town? There’s a way that you can preserve wood, it’s not cheap, but why’d you buy an old home? So that is something that I do think about a lot, and I do talk about, and I’m researching and reading about old homes so that I can be informed when I am on my soap box about it.

 

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