Why Not Join Peer Mentoring? It’s So Elementary!

For over 10 years, OHS mentors in the making have sought opportunities to practice their craft before they leave behind a world of cafeteria food and standardized testing. The peer mentoring program seeks to satisfy the hunger facing many future teachers here, as students leave the high school classrooms of Osbourn to the classrooms of elementary schools in this school district.  The elementary schools are Baldwin, Weems, Jennie Dean, Round, and Haydon. Osbourn students get assigned a class from pre-k to 5th grade and they help out both the students and teachers. From helping 1st graders with measurements to helping 3rd graders write a persuasive essay, these peer mentors do it all.

The teacher of the peer mentoring class, a “mentor of mentors” if you will, is Mr. Van Wassen. Mr. Van Wassen views this class as important in the growth of students as they become adults.

“We want the Osbourn students to become leaders, inside and outside of the classroom. I know that this program will help students build communication and presentation skills as well increasing responsibility, and building collaborative skills. I think that this program helps students grow as people and builds character. Because there is a community service component to the course, I hope that students find value in helping out in their community and will want to continue that even after they finish with the program. I believe that one of the main goals of this class is to see if students enjoy working with younger students and shadowing teachers so that they can see whether they might want to pursue a career in teaching. Secondly, it is very beneficial for our Osbourn students to work with our elementary school students, as they act as big brothers or sisters. Many times, the mentors are helping students not just academically, but socially and emotionally,” said Mr. Van Wassen.

The peer mentors themselves, ranging from sophomores to seniors, sure do have a lot on their plates. To others not in the class, it might seem like a real hassle having to deal with 10, 8, 6, and even 4-year-olds. However, this class might be an opportunity to get out of the general mundanity of high school life, and to get a little bit of fresh air away from the halls of Osbourn. The experiences they’ve encountered in these elementary schools have shaped their thoughts on the program as a whole.

“Four things I like about the class are the kids, being helpful, the change in environment, and the leadership. My mom and my sixth-grade teacher, Ms. Richardson, inspired me to help younger people. Honestly, what really goes on is the teacher is teaching and I’m just standing there, ready to help. I’ll be helping them with science and math because those are the two subjects I go for,” said senior Rocio Ramos. “My communication skills developed for sure, talking in front of people is definitely a skill I developed in this class. My skills in helping other people have also become better because of it.”

“One thing I like about my class is the children. I love every single one of my pre-k students; they’re so sweet. The teachers are nice as well, and I love the amount of fun we have and the activities we do,” said Araceli Garcia-Mendez. “A girl last year, a graduate, inspired me to be more communicative and actually do things for the school. She’s the reason why I’m doing all these activities and clubs. On a typical day, we just have a lot of fun mostly; when we do teach, it’s like basic stuff like numbers. But mostly we just have fun, like playing games or going outside for recess. I like building a bond with them. The skills I’ve learned are leadership and communication.”

Forming a bond with the elementary students is one of the musts of this class. Even the students at these elementary schools hold very positive views on the peer mentoring class. While the peer mentors help them with addition and place values, they’re forming their own personal opinions and thoughts on the program and the OHS students.

“The ‘teachers’ do help me, and I do feel comfortable with you guys coming in, I love it,” said Baldwin Elementary first-grader, Riley Jones.