Out of college, but not out of a dorm

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October 7, 2008

1:58 AM

Prior to his graduation, Sean Koebley ’08 planned on either attending medical school or joining the ranks of Teach for America.

However, this fall he found himself part of a full-time tutoring program called MATCH Corps at a public magnet school that is striving to close the achievement gap in the Boston area.

MATCH Corps, a one-year fellowship, gives college graduates a chance to impart the knowledge and experience they attained in college to high school students from Boston’s less affluent areas.

Ranked as one of the top 25 high schools in the nation by Newsweek, the MATCH school chooses its students through a lottery system. According to the school’s website, MATCH received over 600 applications for just 90 freshman spots last year.

The school targets students who are behind in basic subjects and are easily discouraged by academics. At the MATCH school, where the motto is “courage, discipline and perseverance,” students are pushed to excel academically by their teachers and the school’s resident tutors, the MATCH Corps.

So far the school’s resident tutoring program, the only one of its kind in the country, has been effective. According to Koebley, over 99 percent of graduating students attend college.

“It really is a full-time effort to break down what could well be considered the greatest and most self-perpetuating injustice of our country, and I couldn’t be happier,” Koebley said.

Koebley emerged from a pool of 640 applicants to become one of 45 recent college graduates chosen to tutor at the MATCH school this year.

A biology major, math minor at the College, he now works one-on-one for two hours with each of his students, two sophomores and one freshman, every day. He also calls his students’ parents weekly to update them on their children’s progress and teaches an Advanced Placement Calculus tutorial to a group of seniors twice a week.

“Besides providing these kids with an intense dose of individual attention that makes school a more personal and invested experience, I fulfill other duties that hugely augment the school’s capacities,” he said.

Koebley’s other duties include grading, aiding with SAT tutorials, supervising meal times and coaching the flag football club.

Koebley said he has found witnessing his students’ growth to be one of the most rewarding aspects of MATCH. His freshman student has been showing remarkable improvement, recently getting a 98 on a test, an achievement of which Koebley is very proud.

Having only been a part of the program for two months, Koebley said he is looking forward to building a closer, stronger relationship with his students.

“The other day I was working with my freshman on vocabulary,” Koebley said. “The word was ‘emulate’ and he said, ‘I want to emulate Mr. Koebley, because he is funny.’”

Despite all the good days, there are still some bad days.

“It’s not easy,” he said, admitting that he sometimes struggles in the classroom.

Fortunately, Koebley has a lot of support. One aspect that Koebley believes sets the program apart from others is the amount of help he and other Corps members receive from the teachers and from each other.

It is common for the calculus teacher to sit in on his tutorial and to provide him with feedback to improve his teaching skills.

According to Koebley, the program gives college graduates in-depth, hands-on insight into a teacher’s life.

“Come November, if my present satisfaction with teaching persists as I expect it to, I plan to take advantage of a groundbreaking new teacher training program that MATCH offers its Corps members free of charge,” Koebley said.

Also, every night Corps members who live on the third floor dormitory of the school fill out a survey about each day, allowing for MATCH Corps to continue innovating and evolving.

“It’s an incredibly self-reflective school [and] I feel lucky to be here,” Koebley said. “William and Mary instilled in me responsibility, awareness, skill, relationships and courage to make change in our world. I thought that the school would appreciate a view of another unique and powerful way to serve.”

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