This series is in honor of Black History Month, where each February, as designated by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founded by Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson, as well as The Library of Congress, an …
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This series is in honor of Black History Month, where each February, as designated by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founded by Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson, as well as The Library of Congress, an array of other national organizations and presidential proclamations since President Gerald Ford, tribute is paid to and education is spread about the generations of African-Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society. While learning about this nation's historical and iconic African-American figures is vital, The Sumter Item is also using this month to shine a spotlight on current members of the Sumter community - one each Friday for this series - who own local businesses and continue to make a mark on what, while now the present, will become history.
For Sumterites Stacie Stevenson and Melissa Ricks, teaching young children reading, math and writing is their passion.
So much so, the life-long educators have been doing it after hours and during the summer months for about a decade.
The duo spoke earlier this week about their business, A Teacher's Place, 740 Broad St., which specializes in daily after-school tutoring and also includes a summer tutoring camp. Both were classroom teachers at Crosswell Drive Elementary School in the late 2000s when they came up with the business idea.
Stevenson said parents kept asking them if they knew of anyone who tutored students after school.
One day, they were talking together about how if some of their students could get that little bit of extra help, it would help them so much in the classroom.
"So, we decided, 'You know what, maybe we ought to figure out how to give students that extra help ourselves outside of the school,'" Stevenson said. "We just brainstormed and said let's open up a little tutoring program and see what happens from there."
That was in 2009, and the program started with just four students in a storage room connected to a business at 11 Broad St.
It's been 10 years now, and A Teacher's Place currently has a facility with four small classrooms and a library for kids generally between 3 years old and fourth grade. Some exceptions do apply, however, said Stevenson, who is retired from the public school system while Ricks is still at Crosswell Drive.
After-school tutoring runs from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year for students from any school. The rate is $65 per week for a child ($20 for each additional child from the same household), she said. The duo serves as the primary tutors, but they also have several volunteers who help out.
Currently, the program has 12 kids, which may seem small to some, but for tutoring, Stevenson said, "allows for more one-on-one time with students." Right now, parents provide their own transportation for kids. The two know of no other direct competitors here who don't receive grant funding.
Homework is done first daily, followed by additional teaching and training, they said.
The all-day, summer tutoring camp is larger with 30 to 40 students, operates from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and runs from early June until the beginning of August, generally. The summer camp includes breakfast, lunch and a snack and also costs $65 a week but is $35 for each additional child from the same home.
The summer camp's goal is to get students "as ready as they can be for the next grade," the two said.
Ricks said their biggest personal reward is seeing the children grow educationally and have an "aha!" moment when they realize they have mastered a new skill.
"We do it because we love the children and want to see them succeed," Ricks said. "I think it's near and dear to both our hearts. Our goal is to [reach] as many children as we can and to see them grow and be successful in life. Each success is just getting us one step closer."
A Teacher's Place
WHERE: 740 Broad St.
PHONE: (803) 795-4444
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