Assistance and Experience

student learning on a computer
An EWU program pairs mathematics-education students with the children of health workers.


Eastern students studying to be teachers have had a unique perspective on the upheavals wrought by the coronavirus. They’ve experienced pandemic disruptions both as students and as educators.

This double whammy is an unfortunate but potentially profitable experience, says Carlos Castillo-Garsow, an associate professor of mathematics education at Eastern. Especially when it comes to the instruction part.

“Teaching online can be very challenging, but it’s something I would recommend for everyone,” Castillo-Garsow says. “You don’t really get a sense of how important feedback is from students, and knowing how students are performing in the classroom, until it’s hard to get that information.”

“Teaching online can be very challenging, but it’s something I would recommend for everyone,” Castillo-Garsow says.

To help his students gain such insights, Castillo-Garsow partnered with local healthcare providers to pair EWU students with the children of their frontline workers. Eastern students started hosting virtual math tutoring sessions last spring, with many continuing through the current academic term.

“There are a lot of doctors, nurses and psychiatrists who are working in hospitals right now who can’t be home to help their children with home schooling,” says Castillo-Garsow. “And we have a lot of math education students here at Eastern who need some practical experience spending time with students.”

The student teachers have received high praise from employees at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, who say they are thankful they’ve had the extra help during this challenging time.

“Teaching my son has been so hard; math is the only thing that is going well,” wrote one parent. “His tutor explains things in an understandable way and works so well with him. I don’t understand math. I wouldn’t have known what to do.”

Earlier this fall, Castillo-Garsow also got additional campus groups involved, such as the Women in Science at EWU (WiSE) club. He hopes to continue matching kids with math tutors as long as it’s helpful to those who need them. “It really is a perfect opportunity for us to help out and provide support for the community in this time,” he says.