FHS ramps up tutoring program
FAIRMONT- Fairmont High School has substantially increased the size of its peer tutoring program this semester. The program currently has 16 students working as tutors and aims to improve academic achievement, social development and graduation rates of both tutors and tutees while also improving school culture as a whole.
Fairmont’s peer tutoring program has been active for several years but was hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. While a handful of Fairmont students were peer tutors earlier this year, most began their experience with tutoring at the start of the current semester two weeks ago. Any Fairmont sophomore, junior, or senior with a 3.0 GPA was eligible to register for the tutoring program last spring and have since been placed in classes where they can work with other students one-on-one in a subject they’re familiar with.
Brooke Schultz is the Director of Teaching, Learning and Student Support for Fairmont Area Schools and helps facilitate student placement.
“I work with our classroom students and try to find a good placement …. depending on the strengths of that student and what courses we have during that scheduled hour. The student would do peer tutoring during that period instead of a study hall or an open period,” said Schultz.
Students are assigned to particular courses rather than particular students and the teachers they work with can give them a range of different responsibilities depending on the needs of that particular classroom.
Kathleen Walker has recently brought in peer tutors for her 8th grade English classes. She thinks her students identify more with a peer tutor compared to an adult staff member.
“It helps bridge those gaps between 8th graders … they see someone other than the teacher or a paraprofessional in the room working with them. They go to school with them and get to see them in the classroom,” said Walker.
Like her students, Walker’s tutors are still familiarizing themselves with the class at the beginning of the semester but she predicts their presence will dramatically improve learning outcomes in the future.
“What I see in the future is a lot of support with multilingual learners, students who need support outside of the classroom, … or having an extra support in the classroom just to check in at their desks,” said Walker.
Jamie Mueller is a tutor who empathizes with the students he works with.
“As a guy who’s struggled before with learning things and being able to stay focused … you know how to help (students) and help the teacher out because you were that one student and you’ve realized how to help them,” said Mueller.
The program also helps address a critical need for students with limited English language proficiency. Roughly half of the tutors involved in the program work with students who speak English as a second language and can either help in Spanish language courses or bring a language proficiency to the classroom the instructor may lack.
Some of this semester’s tutors are students who know firsthand what it’s like integrating into Fairmont’s schools and want to make this experience easier for others. When Joha Molina Rosario’s family moved to Fairmont from Puerto Rico she had trouble taking courses which were taught in English. Now she’s someone who can help students who face the same problems as she did.
“It makes me really happy that the school is doing more to help the Spanish speakers because when I got here it was really different. I didn’t have a person who was there for me to help me, I did everything on my own and it was really difficult,” said Molina Rosario.
“When you’re new to the country it’s very difficult so you know the experience and it makes you want to make other kids not feel that way too,” said Gabi Milla, another multilingual tutor.
While peer tutoring is an elective course without a static curriculum, participating students said they’ve had a valuable educational experience like practicing their language skills with a native speaker or by brushing up on material they may have forgotten.
Makayla Javers is one student who’s tutored during previous semesters. She started peer tutoring to improve her Spanish and kept up with it because of the relationships she formed with her tutees.
“I loved it because I get to make connections with these kids who I otherwise … wouldn’t have met. It has been a challenge to explain some things in my second language; explaining a Shakespearean sonnet is kind of a challenge but it’s awesome, I love doing it,” said Javers.
Fairmont’s current peer tutors will continue working with students through the end of the school year. The program is expected to return after reviewing the results of this semester’s program and integrating improvements into next year’s program.