Dotty Tepper

Dotty Tepper at Hosea House. Photo: Diane Stern

Patricia Corrigan

Dotty Pressman Tepper’s 20 years of volunteer tutoring has put kids back on track academically, built up their confidence and self-esteem, brightened their futures – and at the same time, expanded her family.

Tepper works with students at the Hosea House Tutoring and Mentoring Program, which she founded at the Guardian Angel Settlement Association in St. Louis (GASA). “The kids are so affectionate, and they often call just to talk. I know their mothers and dads, too, so I have gained a big extended family,” says Tepper.

The program at Hosea House involves about 30 students, ranging from 6 to 17, who meet with Tepper and other volunteers, some of them part of a teen program called Mitzvah Mania that Tepper started 20 years ago at Congregation Temple Israel.

“With her own resources, Dotty has been helping children living in poverty in St. Louis, not just by tutoring them in school subjects but by mentoring them,” says the Rev. Ed Murphy, executive director of GASA. “She tries to create in them a desire and passion for learning, and for creating a better future for themselves.”

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The Hosea House program operates one afternoon a week and one Saturday a month. A summer program meets twice a week for six weeks during the summer. The program includes field trips, a holiday shopping program and shopping for school clothes, shoes and supplies. Tepper is quick to say she doesn’t do this good work alone. Shari Klein works with her, as do other adult and teen volunteers from Ladue Chapel and Cardinal Ritter High School.

A former schoolteacher, Tepper started a tutoring business when her children were young. “I saw what a difference you can make when you build a student’s confidence and skills, and I saw the difference in how they saw themselves,” she says. “These were middle-class kids, but I realized that kids are kids – they all have a common need for attention, for building self-esteem.”

Tepper speaks warmly of all the students she has worked with, but she is especially proud of one young man who entered the program at Hosea House when he was 4. He is now an honor student in high school, heading to college. “We are committed to helping these kids go to college, helping them get the money,” says Tepper. “We’re not just furthering education. We’re helping them end the cycle of poverty.”

Tepper says she is just grateful for the opportunity to help. “I have always enjoyed being with children of all ages – that keeps me feeling young,” she says. “This work also makes me realize how lucky I was to have parents who supported me, who valued education. I want to provide that for these kids, because they truly have enriched my life.”

Dotty Pressman Tepper

AGE:  63

FAMILY:   Married to Dr. Arnold Tepper, mother of three (Jeremy, 35, Julie, 33, and Jamie, 31), stepmother of two (Micah, 36 and Hanna, 34), two grandchildren 

HOME:  Creve Coeur 

OCCUPATION:  Educational tutor

FAVORITE VACATIONS:  Long, back-road bike trips