Bowers Academy and Way Elementary Students Build Connections
Bowers Academy has joined forces with Way Elementary enabling Bowers students the opportunity to give back within the district while learning a bit about teaching in the process. The schools began working together last semester when Way Principal, Michelle Fiebke-Lang, and Instructional Coach, Stephanie Barterian, suggested the program to Aileen Myer, Bowers Academy adminstrator.
Several Bowers students are enrolled in a class called Capstone, which combines individual teacher advisory with career readiness in a student’s area of interest. Many of these students chose to focus on community service and teaching. According to Myer, Fiebke-Lang’s idea fit perfectly with the Capstone class at Bowers and seemed like a great opportunity for all the students.
Currently, four Bowers students go to Way twice a week to work with the elementary teachers and students. The Way Elementary teachers guide and advise the high school students and provide instructions on what support they need that day. This could include providing academic support or social emotional learning, helping with make-up work, or even joining the kids as a lunch buddy.
On Thursday, Kaylah Adedapo (grade 12) walked into Kirstin Ferstle’s kindergarten classroom and, already having an established relationship, knew the routine. Ferstle asked Adedapo to work with one of the students on sight words, and almost immediately, they were at the couch in the back of the room with a list of words and a personal white board, chatting and working away. It’s obvious that Adedapo’s gentle approach and soft voice were calming for the younger student. “I love doing this,” Adedapo said. “I want to be a teacher. Doing this gives me first hand experience to see what really goes into it. And the teachers are really nice!”
Ayisha Bhalli’s third grade class was abuzz when Malik Cunningham (grade 12) walked through the door. Every hand raised into the air, hoping to be chosen to work with the Bowers volunteer that day. Cunningham received instructions and accompanied two third graders to the media center to work on the 5’s times tables. When reflecting on the time spent at Way so far, Cunningham said, “I’ve created bonds with a couple kids. It’s fun trying to learn a new strategy to help them learn and remember things.” Cunningham created four different games on the spot to keep the kids engaged and learning, all while having fun.
It’s clear how much the elementary students love the individual attention and working with the “big” kids. As Myer says, it fills the older kids’ buckets too. “They’re working on communication skills, being dependable, being organized, and showing younger kids how to act around other adults.”