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Need some tutoring? This retired teacher is here to help — in his driveway

Tim Weston, a retired teacher, is photographed in front of a tent in his driveway in Chesapeake, Va., on Monday, October 5, 2020. Weston is making himself available a few hours each morning for any local children that might need help with tutoring.

KRISTEN ZEIS/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

By GORDON RAGO | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: October 5, 2020

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Tribune News Service) — To Tim Weston, teaching is like show business.

“You have to have an act,” he said.

For years, his stage was in Portsmouth as an English teacher at William E. Waters Middle School. When he first walked into the school 15 years ago, he already had a career behind him, including in the Navy where his time aboard the USS Miller, his first ship, helped to bring him around the world. Kids, he said, respected him for that and were immediately interested in him and his past life. He could build trust that way.

Weston, now retired, has found a new stage.

The driveway of his Chesapeake home. Under a blue tent.

For the last couple weeks, around 8 a.m. each weekday morning, Weston, 66, pops up the blue tent in his driveway, pulls out two similarly colored chairs and a white table. He spreads out some learning materials he’s held on to from his teaching days: books on vocabulary, writing and study skills, lessons about rising action, conflict and subject-verb agreement.

These are his free tutoring sessions. He wears a mask and has some hand sanitizer nearby.

Instead of a classroom chalkboard, Weston has pinned up signs to the front of the table with written messages like one about the writing process — prewrite, draft/compose, evaluate, revise, edit and publish — or another that encourages kids to read and write something everyday.

Weston says it gives him a feeling of purpose. Something to look forward to each morning. He had been volunteering at his school during his retirement but with learning moving virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic, that wasn’t much of an option anymore.

“I’m not looking to teach anyone’s class,” Weston quickly admits. But if a parent has a question about something their child just learned or if the child wants some extra work on reading or writing, he’s there. Three hours a day, five days a week. Except when it’s raining.

So far, Weston said, kids haven’t been stopping by. He’s not surprised by that. Families are still trying to settle into a routine — learning from home can come with distractions and working parents are trying to figure it all out.

It all started one day when Weston was chatting with his next-door neighbor who has a daughter in virtual school. Weston offered to help, but realized with the pandemic he couldn’t just go into someone else’s house to tutor. Realizing there are other kids in the neighborhood who might need help, he set up his table.

His time outside has earned him plenty of attention, even if he hasn’t had a lot of students stop by. Neighbors who walk or jog by might stop and chat. Cars drive slowly by, curious at the sight, and give a friendly wave. On one recent morning, Weston was listening to Santana through a speaker while reading “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. An old Navy buddy had heard what he was doing and stopped by to say hello and give him a gift.

The attention really spiked after a woman who snapped a photo of the table posted to Facebook. She wanted to share how he was giving back.

Since Sept. 16, the post has received 12,000 shares and hundreds of comments. Soon, local television crews were stopping by to do interviews and more and more cars were driving by to get a peek.

Weston was impressed by the speed the initial Facebook post took off with, giving him an appreciation of social media.

He thinks the high interest was because people are just looking for some good news.

He just didn’t know he’d be the one providing it.

gordon.rago@pilotonlline.com

©2020 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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Tim Weston, a retired teacher, shows a plot diagram at a tent he has set up in his driveway offering tutoring for local students in Chesapeake, Va., on Monday, October 5, 2020.
KRISTEN ZEIS/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT