By Amanda Renko | ICSD Communications | MAy 2018
Golden Opportunity (GO), which provides oneon-one tutoring to Ithaca City School District students, thrives largely due to the efforts of retired ICSD educators.
The organization, founded in 2005 by ICSD retiree Marty Kaminsky, provides free tutoring and mentoring services to over 70 students from low-income families.
Over 60 percent of GO tutors have ICSD roots, said Executive Director Kolby Harrell. About 25 are ICSD retirees, while 12 are still actively working as teachers or teacher aides.
The skills retirees developed over decades in the classroom—knowledge, resources, best practices, patience, adaptability—are essential to GO’s mission, Harrell said.
“They are deeply passionate about helping students thrive in school and in life,” Harrell said. “They have the passion and heart of an educator. They’ve dedicated their lives to helping students reach their full potential, and they’re not quite ready to stop.”
GO tutors also meet with teachers to set learning goals; attend curriculum nights, parent-teacher conferences and response-to-intervention meetings; and help students develop study habits and positive attitudes toward school. Some relationships between tutors and students last for several years.
Denise Gelberg, who retired in 2006 after a 30-year career in ICSD elementary schools, has worked with an eighth-grade boy for seven years. She also recently started working with a second-grade girl.
“To actually see them grow up is a real treat,” Gelberg said. “I think I’m part of his life now, and he’s become part of my whole family’s life. It’s been a lovely experience.”
Gelberg’s involvement with GO began after she found herself wanting to continue working with children after retirement. “I knew I was going to miss the children, so when Golden Opportunity came on my radar, I thought, isn’t that a great way to have at least one kid in my life?” she said. “I love spending time with them and seeing them try to figure out the world and their place in the world.”
The students find it beneficial to have a person focused only on them, Gelberg said. “A lot of time it’s just having time to listen to them, which is really great for the kid, and I enjoy it too,” she said. “It’s like having another person in your corner.”
Kathy Faben, like Gelberg, wanted to continue working with children after she retired from Caroline Elementary School in 2010. Since starting that fall, she has worked with three students; she currently tutors boys in sixth and second grades. Spending time with a student one-on-one is “a much more low-key, but still satisfying, way to keep teaching,” said Faben, who likes to use games to help students learn.
“We have a good time, but they’re learning at the same time. They’ve already been through a whole day of school when we work together for an hour afterwards. I don’t want to make it all school. I want to make it fun, too.”
GO also helps Faben feel like she can still contribute the skills she acquired during her ICSD career.
“It’s such a nice thing that Marty Kaminsky did with creating this program. It does provide a way for us to feel useful in our retirement,” she said. “He aimed specifically for kids who, if their families had the means, would probably hire a tutor but because they don’t, this provides them with this service that I hope is making a difference. I’m so proud to be a part of this program."