A dedicated volunteer since 2012, Kavitha Lotun, May’s volunteer of the month, has worn many hats during her tenure at 826 Valencia. A veteran educator, she’s supported a range of 826 programs, including tutoring students in After-school Tutoring and Exploring Words Summer Camp and helping the stories of countless Field Trip classes receive the stamp of approval from Blue, 826 Valencia’s notoriously cranky editor and arbiter of literary taste. Most recently, she has brought her invaluable knowledge of 826 programs to her work as one of the inaugural members of the Volunteer Engagement and Support Team (VEST), 826 Valencia’s brand new volunteer leadership committee.
Kavitha shares the path that led her to 826 Valencia:
“I have such wonderful memories of my time as a student. My teachers throughout elementary and high school were passionate about finding new, innovative ways to teach and learn. I loved the energy and diversity within my school community, and I wanted to continue volunteering in schools after I graduated. I went on to complete a B.A. in Sociology and a B.Ed. in Elementary Education and headed back to London, UK to begin my teaching career.
I will never forget my first day of teaching. I was given a class list with 30 names, and assumed that it would be like kindergarten classes I had worked with in Canada—15 students in the morning session and 15 students in the afternoon session. What a surprise it was to open my classroom door and find 30 sweet, shy, adoring four-year-olds all in their matching uniforms, ready for a FULL DAY of school! Eek!
I managed to figure out a way to keep them all awake through a busy day of learning—from phonics and numeracy to religion and language lessons, these students kept me on my toes! It is an honor to have guided these little learners through their first days of their educational careers. I continued teaching the Early Years UK curriculum for 5 years.
It was hard to leave those darling students and the energy of my classroom, but San Francisco was calling to my husband, and I couldn’t resist the temptation of warmer weather. In 2012, my husband and I relocated to San Francisco and a whole new adventure began. One day whilst exploring the Mission and pining after the buzz of my former classrooms, I stumbled upon the 826 Valencia Exploring Words Summer Camp, and signed up to become a volunteer. I haven’t left since!
My three years volunteering 826 so far have been exceptional. I signed up to give my time, energy, and teaching expertise to the students, but didn’t expect to receive so much back from them in return! After-School Tutoring gives me great insight into the SFUSD curriculum and expectations, but also insight into the culturally diverse community living in San Francisco.
Being a part of the 826 Field Trips team allows me to facilitate the type of lesson I could have only dreamed of when I was teaching my own classes. It is wonderful to have extra lesson time to focus on the creative elements of storytelling with the students. The volunteer support involved in typing, illustrating and binding a book during the span of one lesson is a dream come true. I’ve had quite a hard time getting Captain Blue to approve my own literary works so far, but he thankfully appreciates a good adventurous story from the 2nd–5th graders’ perspectives, and seeing the look on their faces if he approves their story is the highlight of my week!
I took a hiatus from 826 to welcome my son Khalil in 2013 (he’s currently exploring his own words). I returned in 2014 to continue leading Storytelling Field Trips, tutoring, and being part of the new Volunteer Engagement Support Team.”
To read about all of our featured volunteers, visit the Volunteer of the Month gallery.