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story.lead_photo.caption Sara Herlevsen (right) tutors nine-year-old Corban Music on topics from Vikings to ghosts April 15 over a Zoom video conference call in Calgary, Alberta. Herlevsen offers free online lessons to help parents and their children during the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

NEW YORK -- "Tell us about Vikings; tell us about shipwrecks; tell us about pirates and ancient myths."

Sara Herlevsen nods, smiles and answers these questions from students via videoconferencing. Or this 31-year-old massage therapist and tutor from Calgary helps them with their math homework, a science quiz or an art project.

Sometimes, she simply listens. Many want someone to talk to because the spread of the coronavirus outbreak has forced their schools to close and isolated them from their classmates.

Herlevsen said it all started because she was worried about students falling behind. So she volunteered to help on social media: "During Pandemic Times," she said. "I would like to offer FREE remote assistance/tutoring to any child who is at home right now. Anywhere in the world."

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Her Facebook post last month spread in Canada and other countries, including Australia, Britain and as far away as Vietnam. Since then, she wakes up at dawn every day to teach children and some parents everything from biology to the Latin root of words.

"I have nothing else to offer at this time as I am self-isolating. But I have Facetime and chat! And lots of time and random knowledge and need something to do!"

Herlevsen said her wide-ranging knowledge, love for books and teaching comes from her father, a theologian. Above all, she hopes to be a mentor to some of the students she tutors who, like her, have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

During a recent lesson, she reviewed facts about the Titanic with Corban Music, a 9-year-old from Calgary who loves ships. They also briefly spoke about Norse mythology ("Do you know Thor from the Avengers?" she asked) and a bit about Vikings: "Did you know that they didn't really have those horns in their helmets?"

"I know about this stuff!" the boy said. They both laughed when he changed the virtual backdrop on his videoconference to famous tourist spots. She then listened in silence when he read a story that he had dictated to his mother about the popular Nintendo brothers, Mario and Luigi.

In her next lesson, she reviewed biology and the Latin roots of medical words with 12-year-old Nevaeh Siipola, who dreams of becoming a doctor.

"When we see a root word with the word 'dento' in front ... it pertains to?" she asked.

"Teeth!" Siipola answered.

The lessons have been welcomed by parents who are trying to juggle working from home without child care.

"Kindness from a stranger like Sara is more appreciated," said Nevaeh's mother, Quynh Siipola. "It's more than winning the lottery."

NW News on 05/07/2020

Print Headline: Volunteer + tutor = learning and fun for isolated students

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