LIMA — Liberty Arts Magnet eighth-grader Xavier Cloud peers intently at the computer screen while listening to the responses from kindergartner Danarea Terry.
Xavier has been tutoring and working with Danarea as part of a year-long “Buddy Program” where the older students help the younger students primarily in reading and math but the subject matter can span the educational spectrum.
“I think he learns a lot more this way,” Xavier said. “It is fun to watch him learn.”
Eighth-grade teacher Amanda Cupples, who has taught at the school for three years, started the one-on-one tutoring program three years ago as a joint venture between the kindergarten and eighth-grade teacher.
“The whole goal was to give the eighth-graders a responsibility in the building because we want them to know the other students, especially the younger kids, do look up to them,” Cupples said. “They know you, they know your name, they expect you to act a certain way and they want to be just like you.”
Fellow eighth-grade teacher Jodie Freiberger, who has taught at Liberty for 12 years, joined the program two years ago.
The teachers schedule time together for the two groups to work together each Wednesday morning.
Cupples said the mentor and their “younger buddy” typically start the year off with letter recognition and letter sounds and the by the end of the year the kindergartner is reading to their “older buddy.” A similar development occurs in math as they start with number recognition and by the end of the school year they are doing addition and subtraction.
“Recently my students and their buddies started working on the computers and how to use the computers as they worked on different math programs, reading programs, online programs and how to save educational sites to their favorites,” Cupples said. “The kindergarten teachers develop all of the activities based on their needs and their level. With the one-on-one tutoring, they are able to bring individualized activities to the program.”
Recently Azaira Andrews helped Dinaja Bratton learn to tell time.
“It is a great feeling to help out little kids, and it is a good thing to do,” Azaira said.
“I like this because I get to play with her,” Dinaja said. “I really like learning with her.”
When the program first started in September 2011, the kindergarteners were intimidated by the eighth-graders because they were physically bigger. Through the year the kindergarteners grow more comfortable working with the older students.
“We were really trying to bridge the gap between them,” Frieberger said, pointing out this year there are 44 eighth-graders and 43 kindergarteners. “We wanted them to feel comfortable around these big kids who could be really, really loud and really, really scary at times.
“After a few meetings, they have no fear at all and they come up and give their buddy a hug and say ‘Hi,’” Cupples said. “At the beginning of the year, the eighth-graders are really timid. They don’t see themselves as teachers and they don’t know how to explain things, but it is neat to watch them learn how their buddy learns and how to teach the different skills to their buddy. They just become more self-confident and they teach their kindergartener be more self-reliant.”
Both teachers said the eighth-graders even point areas of concern out to the kindergarten teachers as they “adopt” their younger buddy.
The teachers agreed as the school year enters the last few months that the seventh-grade students say they look forward to their eighth-grade year so they can participate in the program.
Staring at the laptop screen, Reilie Lyons exchanges glances with Jeweliette Stemen as they work on a counting exercise.
“I love it. It is a nice way to be a part of the kindergartener’s education while we are still here,” Reilie said. “I think it is a great opportunity for us to work with them and help them learn. I really like working with her and helping her understand things she needs to know and that will help her as she goes through school.”