For high school senior Tony Asher, playing sports is fun, but nothing is better than when a classmate suddenly gets it.
It just makes me so happy, says Tony, who discovered his passion for peer tutoring his junior year at Providence Day. Its like my high when somebody youre working with understands something new and it finally clicks. You sink in your chair and go, Phew! That was a good one.
Tonys path to loving peer tutoring began last year when a friend in Advanced Placement Biology formally enlisted his help.
Tutoring sessions with his friend morphed into a study and tutoring group with a handful of classmates and ended up with one of the most successful group of AP Biology test scores that their teacher, Bobbie Hinson, says shes seen: 24 4s and 5s out of 26 test-takers. (Passing scores for AP tests are 3, 4 and 5.).
Even Tonys friend, who had been initially struggling, made a 4 out of 5 on the test, she says.
Tony, she says, has an uncanny way of simplifying information to make it easier to understand, then building on it, especially with analogies.
But Hinson and Tony are quick not to give Tony all the credit for such high scores.
These are driven students anyway, and they all want to do well, Hinson says. We did have more 4s and 5s. Each class is different, and I expect our kids to be successful, but their scores last year were really good.
Tony adds that the biology sessions turned into a group effort with other students chiming in and helping each other.
Since that first peer tutoring experience last year, Tony has tutored classmates as needed in AP Psychology, all kinds of math and SAT prep for math.
The tutoring is sometimes as quick as a concept clarification between classes or time spent in an empty classroom with a bunch of other kids at lunch time.
I like doing it. Its not like its something I dont enjoy, he says. Im going to have fun, and I hope the students even though its for a class theyre having problems with have fun, too.
Tony says tutoring also helps reinforce learning for him. Keeping the mood light is important to him: The last thing I want is to lord over people when Im tutoring. I want to be a person who makes sure to keep the conversation friendly and not serious in any way.
Hinson says Tony isnt critical when one of his peers says something wrong. Instead, hell preface a response with, What would happen if ... or Thats a good idea ....
Tutoring is not Tonys only passion. He plays soccer, runs winter track and has been on the varsity lacrosse team for the past four years, team captain for two of those years.
He loves his classes and got special permission to take six AP classes before graduating. Hes a biology whiz and hopes to double-major in English and biology. He wants to attend medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon.
And with all these aspirations, Hinson hopes Tony still remembers his love for teaching.
Hes a born teacher, so I hope he really will like to teach other doctors or med students, she says.
Hinson need not worry.
I want to integrate it into my life with whatever I end up doing, Tony says. In college, I want to get involved with classmates and perhaps do that in school, particularly in the sciences, because thats what I find most applicable.
Where Tony will attend college is still undecided: He is a Morehead-Cain scholarship finalist for UNC Chapel Hill and has applied to several Ivy League schools as well.
Hinson said whatever he chooses, she knows hell go far.
Tony is an exceptional student, she said. Hes just a really well-rounded kid.