Poplar Bluff elementary uses students as teachers - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Poplar Bluff elementary uses students as teachers


Poplar Bluff's Teaching Assistant Program is molding young leaders, improving grades, and bringing a new energy to Eugene Field Elementary.

Teachers say it's transformed their school.

At Eugene Field, a dozen fourth graders volunteer their time to teach second graders math.

At the heart of the idea, teachers say it's about using a students best qualities to turn them into a role model, and in turn making those little kids want to be leaders themselves.

"I just encourage them and tell them they can do it," said fourth grade teaching assistant, Maraleigh Buss. "Because I'm a kid too, they can understand me better."

Buss gives up a special class period like art or library to help the younger students.

"If they can't understand it I give them homework," said Maraleigh. "If they still don't understand it, I give them more until they get it right. I love the kids. I love them."

In the next classroom, several teaching assistants teach small groups of kids addition and subtraction with flashcards and other tools.

"I think it's pretty awesome that we are making a difference," said assistant, Jadarius Pigg.

"It makes me feel amazed because I help the kids to do it right and then for them it's just a snap!" said Chance Campbell.

The teachers and students they help say their skills make a big impact.

"It just makes it more meaningful for them coming from an older kid than from me," said second grade teacher, Cynthia Olsen.

"They teach us lots of stuff like numbers and math," said second grade student Courtney Brown.

Administrators say graders are improving and that's just the beginning.

"Behavior is better and students are finding leadership traits within themselves they never knew they had before," said Principal Jennifer Taylor.

Taylor and other teachers say the program fits right into a philosophy Eugene Field and other Poplar Bluff schools are embracing. The concept is based on the book The Leader In Me, from Stephen R. Covey. Covey also wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

"We look for win-win situations, and areas where we can turn negatives into positives. We want to pull the best out of students," said Taylor. "It's about building effective habits within yourself."

"We need to start teaching students they are the leaders of themselves and they have the power," said Sabrina Skaggs, who helped implement the idea. "These kids blow me away with the skills they are able to develop. It's life changing."

The younger students and older students say they are motivated and excited about learning.

"If you are inspired it makes you want to do more," said Buss.

Teachers say research shows peers can transform student learning and they feel this program proves that, not just when it comes to grades but with emotional and social needs as well.

Poplar Bluff schools overall plan to implement more leadership based positive behavior programs like this.

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