UWS professor launches tutoring platform for displaced Ukrainian students

In March, he posted on a few Facebook pages, offering to tutor students in chemistry, physics or mathematics.

“I was amazed to get 400 likes on one of these,” Waxman laughed. “This has never happened in my life before.”

Right away, he had a few takers.

One of his first students had fled Kyiv for a village outside Nizhyn, Ukraine. Dr. Waxman recalls telling the student to go to Nizhyn to pick up a textbook, but the student said no because there were street fights there. The seriousness of the situation sets in.

A few weeks into the tutoring, the student’s mother, who is a professional psychologist, sent Waxman a message saying her son was in a bad state after leaving Kyiv.

“He couldn’t sleep, he was shaking with every noise,” he said, “But she said, ‘Once you started teaching him, tutoring him, he changed completely. He has become himself. “”

He said that message had a profound impact.

“Look, I’m not a great instructor. I know my limits. I’m an average instructor, I would say,” Waxman said. “And if I could achieve such change that a professional psychologist could not, then thousands of my colleagues across this country could achieve much the same.”

So the effort grows. He asked Vitaliy Vanchurin, a former UMD professor who now works at the National Institutes of Health, to help him. They created “Tutoring without borders“, an online platform that connects interested Ukrainian students with tutors.

“It’s a totally new experience for me. And I’m enjoying every moment of it,” Waxman said.

About 150 tutors now work with 400 students between the 1st year and middle school.

“As my friend Vitaliy keeps saying, the biggest thing about our small free enterprise, so to speak, is that we don’t offer any degrees. We don’t offer any degrees,” Waxman said. “The only kids who take it are the ones who want to learn.”

He receives requests from students, who let him know what subject they wish to study, then he puts them in touch with a tutor.

The two areas in which they currently need the most help are language and geography. Waxman says it’s incredibly rewarding.

“One of the kids messaged me before class: ‘Dr Waxman, you know, there’s still an hour to wait until your class. I just don’t know how to wait that long.’ You know, I’ve been a teacher for 30 years. And never, never a single student messaged me like that,” he said.

Originally from Siberia, Waxman has lived in the United States for 30 years. But he said his own history with Russia doesn’t seem to bother his students.

“To begin with, I tell them that I am not Russian. I am a pure Jew,” he said. “Basically, I explain to them that I haven’t lived there for 30 years. I have nothing to do with Russia.”

He plans to keep the online classroom open for as long as needed.

“I’ve been incredibly happy ever since I started this thing. Even though I don’t get any money, it’s worth every minute of my time.”

Click here to visit TutoringWithoutBorders.org.

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