The power of cross-class mentorship
The power of cross-class mentorship
Posted on 03/07/2017
Friday afternoons: the favorite part of the week for Sally Heppner’s Isom Elementary School first graders.

That’s the time when Jeff Seaholm’s eighth grade Leadership class makes the walk from Lynden Middle School to Isom to spend time with the first graders as part of the Isom “reading buddies” program that pairs young students with older students weekly, either within Isom’s own school or with the help of the eighth graders.

“It is their favorite part of the week,” Heppner says of the reading buddy time. “I find it so beneficial.”

Seaholm says the opportunity not only provides his students with the chance to help the youngest students in the district to better read or write, but it also provides an opportunity for the eighth graders to think about someone other than themselves.

And while the partnerships really provide a great way to encourage young students to work on reading, writing or some other project, they get to do so while building meaningful relationships.

For Heppner’s class, the students stick with the same buddy for an entire middle school trimester. Each of the three Leadership classes—one each trimerster—makes the trek to Isom weekly, providing each Isom student with three buddies throughout the year they can get to know and connect with regularly.

One first grade student in Heppner’s class says he finds the time exciting both because it is fun and “makes the day go quick.” Another student says his favorite part of the reading buddy experience is simply hanging out with his buddy.

Within the school, the pairs work in a similar way. For example, Amanda Lohrer’s kindergarten students pair with Teresa Stacey’s fourth grade class.

No matter the classes involved, the buddy system at Isom is about far more than just reading.