2017-05-28 / Insight

Lapeer peer mentoring program expanding

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Lapeer High School teacher Duane Machesney (left) and Brenden Story (center) prepare to be filmed for a video about the school’s peer mentoring program. The hope is to have 80 seniors participate in for the 2017-18 school year. Lapeer High School teacher Duane Machesney (left) and Brenden Story (center) prepare to be filmed for a video about the school’s peer mentoring program. The hope is to have 80 seniors participate in for the 2017-18 school year. LAPEER — After a successful pilot at the end of the 2016-17, Lapeer High School plans to expand its peer mentoring program for the entire next school year.

Jennifer Taylor, a secondary learning coach at Lapeer High School, said the hope is to have as many as 80 seniors participate in the program designed to help them develop and improve skills in the areas of leadership, communication, problem-solving, perseverance, goal-setting, and questioning techniques.

Participants work with 10th and 11th graders during a daily class called I-Connect.

I-Connect is designed for a range of students, from those who are struggling with their schooling and need extra help to those preparing to take tests like the SATs.

I-Connect had essentially been one teacher working with 20-25 students, but the peer mentoring program put a new spin on things.

“It had a big impact on those classrooms where they were supporting students, and it also had a big impact on those students who were mentors,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the pilot version of the program launched in January with 13 seniors who were trained as peer mentors who worked in five classrooms.

“They go in and assist the teacher, basically,” Taylor said. “But what they’re really doing is working with the other students.”

The 12th grade I-Connect teacher that helped initiate this idea was Duane Machesney.

The 10th grade I-Connect teachers that volunteered to become a placement for peer mentors this year were: Tom Brown, Char Cornell, Amee Murphy, Nichole Fidler and Kim Kent.

Each class was set up differently. For example, a class of 20 might be broken up into groups of four, each with its own peer mentor.

For seniors, Taylor said they reported more benefits than if they had simply used their time in I-Connect for reading, as has been done in the past.

The peer mentoring program came about as the result of educators asking one key question about those students: Could they be doing something else during that time that was a need for them?

“It came from a place of worrying that we weren’t giving those seniors what they needed,” Taylor said.

Taylor said it was realized that seniors needed to refine their so-called “soft skills” such as being able to work as part of being a group, and having the patience to work with different types of people.

Another benefit for the seniors, she said, was that they put to practice problem-solving skills on the fly.

“They had to learn to really examine how they went about reading and getting the answers so that they could then kind of step back and stretch all of that out and say ‘OK, this is how I got to answers, how can I break that apart… and get this student to ask a question that’s going to lead them to that next step?’”

Taylor said those students who were mentored also realized benefits of the program as test scores rose.

Teachers also saw changes.

“There’s much more enthusiasm. The kids are much more likely to participate and ask questions and it’s all because my mentors have found ways to inspire them to do what they’re actually supposed to be doing,” said LHS teacher Kim Kent.

Kent said she attributes much of the success to the fact the students are peers.

“The kids relate so much differently to my mentors than they do to me,” Kent said.

It wasn’t necessarily smooth sailing at first.

Miranda Shelley, a senior and mentor, said students who were supposed to receive help weren’t open to the idea at first.

But that’s where the mentors had to put to practice skills in the areas of leadership, communication, problem solving, perseverance, goal-setting, and questioning techniques.

“My partner and I had to figure out ways to get them to actually want to do this and find the value in doing it,” she said.

Eventually, they discovered the solution.

“You have to bond with them and they have to bond with each other so that they actually value what you’re doing, “Shelley said.

Students interested in the peer mentoring program should contact Taylor via email at jtaylor@lapeerschools.org or call her office at 810-667- 2418 extension 4026.

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