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Academic boost

Asbury Learning Center offers kids free one-on-one tutoring, thanks to a longtime educator and benefactor

A plaque honoring Fay Layne at Asbury Methodist Church

Back in 2002, Webster City educator Fay Layne had a vision to help give struggling students an academic boost and so she developed the Asbury Learning Center, a one-on-one mentoring program for students in Kindergarten through fourth grade.

Today, 16 years later, the free program continues to provide professional tutoring for students on a weekly basis.

On Tuesdays from October through April, one-on-one tutoring is provided by certified educators during 35 minutes of instructional time, explained program director Cathi Griswold. Following the instruction time, the tutors will meet with the parents for ten minutes to give updates on progress, answer questions and share information that may be useful to the parent in working with their child at home.

The Tuesday sessions are held from 4 to 6 p.m. and run 45 minutes for each individual student and each tutor teaches four sessions that day. The tutor will instruct the same four students throughout the school year.

The program follows the school calendar with no meetings held on holidays, school snow days or scheduled days off, said Griswold.

Cathi Griswold

All tutors are professional educators, explained Griswold. They are either current teachers, paras or retired teachers.

While the program is free, there is an established criteria in order to be eligible for the program, said Griswold. Often the child’s classroom teacher refers the student to the Asbury program. Sometimes, parents seek help.

Originally, the Asbury Learning Center served 20 students, explained Griswold. As the success of the program grew, additional students sought placement but were placed on a waiting list. The Asbury Learning Center governing board then expanded the program to meet that demand and now 33 students may register for the weekly program.

The program was first developed to tutor students in reading, but tutoring in math was added in 2006, she explained.

The Asbury Learning Center incorporates the Read Naturally Program to improve reading fluency and comprehension. Assessments are also used to determine a student’s needs in phonics and decoding skills. The program provides materials and instruction for building these skills.

Fay Layne

Math students are encouraged to bring their classroom homework to each session. In addition, students are taught the basic facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and place value. They also learn about counting money, telling time and solving story problems.

In addition to these instructional programs, the Asbury Learning Center also coordinates the tutoring with the classroom teacher, said Griswold.

Much like their school classroom work, students receive progress assessments. A child’s reading progress is typically measured by the number of words they read correctly in one minute, explained Griswold. Math student progress is measured by the number of correct digits completed in a specific amount of time.

Amazingly, this program is offered free to any student who meets the criteria through the benevolent generosity of Webster City educator Fay Layne, commented Griswold.

Layne came to Hamilton County as a six year old with her parents in 1919. She attended a rural school south of Webster City in the building that now stands in Bonebright Park. She earned her BA from Iowa State Teachers College and taught at West Bend, New Hartford and Keokuk. Throughout the years, she received advanced degrees in curriculum, supervision, and special education. She also taught at the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago and at the Department of Mathematics at Iowa State Teachers College.

An illness in the family brought her back to Webster City where she served as the Educational Consultant for Hamilton County for seven years and then as the Elementary Supervisor for the Webster City school system for six years. She also spent 11 years as an instruction and education diagnostician and a special class consultant in learning disabilities for Black Hawk County and Central Rivers AEA.  

Layne also co-authored a pre-academic inventory for young children which was published by Academic Therapy.

While she served on many church, civic and philanthropic boards over her lifetime, Layne was passionate about helping students succeed. In 2002, she established the Asbury Learning Center and guided it through its first year.

Layne died on July 1, 2003 at the age of 89 and is buried in Graceland Cemetery.

Before her death, Layne established an endowment to help fund the Asbury Learning Center to guarantee that students who needed tutoring could be served.

While the endowment continues to fund the learning center, the William Morrison Trust Grant and the Teresa Treat Sterns Grant also help to support the program, said Griswold.

Applications for this year’s sessions are now being accepted and are available at local schools or at the Asbury Church office.

For more information about enrolling a child in the program, contact Cathi Griswold at (515) 832-5369, ext 19 or email Cathi at asburylearing@hotmail.com.

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