Volunteer Tutor Profile: Barbara and Rich Thompson

By Eric Steckel | April 3, 2024

Finding Joy and Purpose Together
Barbara and Rich Thompson at Garfield Elementary School.

Volunteer tutors Barbara and Rich find joy and purpose in tutoring. The journey together is as rewarding as the destination.

For retired couple Barbara and Rich Thompson, volunteering with Succeeding by Reading has been a source of joy, companionship, and purpose. Their journey began nearly 15 years ago when they attended a talk by Children Rising founder Randy Roth at Piedmont Community Church. They had recently retired and moved back to the East Bay. Randy’s words inspired them to get involved together in a new vocation.

Barbara, with her background in elementary education, and Rich sought activities to share in their retirement. They found tutoring together to be the perfect fit.

“Rich had always worked and traveled a lot. When we moved back, we didn’t have a lot of friends in the area. It was a totally different lifestyle for us. Tutoring gave us something we could share together,” Barbara said.

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After tutoring for 15 years, they have seen students from diverse backgrounds. Often, the children face hurdles like learning English as a second or third language or navigating the challenging effects of poverty.

“It (retirement) was a totally different lifestyle for us. Tutoring gave us something we could share together.”

“Part of it is that they’ve had different experiences. They might be in a single-parent household. It’s funny to them that this lovely woman is my wife. One girl was amazed that I was married to Barbara. I led her back to Barbara and she had a fascinating time getting to know that we are a couple,” Rich shared. “It gives them another role model and sounding board. They open up, treat us not just as a tutor but as a friend.”

Despite obstacles or different life experiences, Barbara and Rich are dedicated to making a difference, one child at a time. Their commitment goes beyond the classroom. As part of the child’s Circle of Care, they’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of one-on-one relationships, which helps children develop academically and boosts their self-esteem and belief in their potential.

Barbara Thompson Tutoring

Your support of Children Rising programs blesses children and tutors alike. “We feel rewarded individually and as a couple.”

One particularly touching moment was when a former student ran out to hug Rich—a testament to the impact they’ve had. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, what a worthwhile moment.’” Rich shared.

Their journey isn’t without its challenges. They face frustrations and exhaustion, but their shared experiences strengthen their bond as a couple and as tutors. Through it all, they find fulfillment in knowing they’re making a difference, both individually and together. On the way home from tutoring, they share stories, provide encouragement, and even learn from their students’ life experiences.

“We come home and we are pretty tired when we’ve done a couple hours of tutoring. We feel rewarded individually and as a couple,” Barbara said.

Barbara and Rich embody a slightly different version of the transformative nature of one-on-one tutoring. It’s not just about teaching reading; it’s about building relationships, instilling confidence, and unlocking potential. And for them, the journey together is as rewarding as the destination.

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