Four Langford Area seniors are working with students in grades 3-6 to help teach good character. Seniors with third and fourth grade students in front left to right are Autumn Wegleitner, Emily Olson, Alex Darling, Ryan Punt, Montgomery Hoops, Brandy Peterson, Dylan Frey, Skyler Gödel, Devan Nannenga, Brynn Samson, and Adalynn Lloyd. Second row Charly Nannenga, Maekin Nikodym, Emilie Crosby, Ben Suther, Janet Hesse, Kassen Keough, Hunter Jensen, Tucker Hardy, and Brooke Dwight. Back row Shaina Kleeman, Tucker Miller, Ethen Olson, Wyat Hall, Hurizon Davila, Conner Glines, and Clarissa Guy.
Teens Help Develop Character
The Langford Area School has been selected to serve as a pilot rural school for a character education program through the SD Youth Foundation.
The program trains teens to be teachers. These teens use their new skills to go into elementary classrooms and teach lessons on the six character pillars including trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.
“Having teen teachers present the lesson and become role models for our elementary students will make the program more successful than if it’s just adults teaching the material,” said Monte Nipp, Langford Area Superintendent and Elementary Principal.
This year’s teen teachers are seniors Brandy Peterson, Emilie Crosby, Dylan Frey, and Ryan Punt. Their training was held last Friday with Phil Olson and Nancy Swanson from the SD Youth Foundation, and the four teen teachers presented their first lesson on Polished Character that very afternoon with the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classes.
After just one session Nipp is thoroughly impressed with the program.
“The first lesson was on being a polished stone, and the seniors brought in stones and each kid was able to choose one,” said Nipp. “They talked about what they needed to do to polish their character, like using kind words, and they were encouraged to carry their stone with them for at least the next two weeks to help reinforce the lesson. Today (Tuesday) I was walking down the hallway and saw Ryan Punt and a fifth grader, and Ryan said, ‘Jake, you got your stone.’ He took it out and showed him, and Ryan took his out and showed it to Jake.
“The seniors are just really good role models,” added Nipp. “When Ryan Punt tells a third or fourth grader something, it’s gospel.”
“Having teen teachers present the lesson and become role models for our elementary students will make the program more successful than if it’s just adults teaching the material.”
----LA Superintendent Monte Nipp
Langford Area had done a similar program a few years ago called, Health Rocks, and Nipp said that program opened the door for Langford Area to be one of four pilot programs in the state.
“I was contacted and asked if we would be interested in being a pilot school,” noted Nipp. “I immediately said yes because those are the kind of discussions we want kids to have, and if they are led by senior students rather than a teacher or counselor it is so much more powerful.”
The four seniors will present up to five more lessons based on the six pillars of character throughout the remainder of the school year. They will track their volunteer hours and be provided a scholarship for their leadership.
Nipp thinks the teen teachers will benefit at least as much as their students.
“It really helps develop some leadership skills, and as they present a lesson and talk to the kids they are seeing that they can make a difference in just 30-40 minutes spent in the classroom.”
Those lessons are also reinforced in a variety of ways by teachers.
“A poster is left in the classroom about the lesson and whether they are reading a story or doing a math problem teachers can ask how that student could become a polished stone,” sais Nipp. “And if students have a polished day they can put the stone out on their desk, or if having a rough day leave it in their pocket. That also allows a teacher to go over and talk about what may have happened. This isn’t just a one-and-gun shot from the seniors but can continue on until the next lesson.”
Next up is a lesson on trash talk. Students will write hurtful words on pieces of paper, crinkle them up, and trash them, vowing not to use them again. Seniors plan on teaching a lesson every couple of weeks so that all six will be completed by the end of school.
Nipp said that Olson and Swanson have hopes of expanding the program to up to 80 schools around the state. Feedback from Langford Area seniors will help to fine tune the lessons taught.
“Hopefully, we will be a participant from here on out,” added Nipp. “I think we really want to continue it based on what I’ve seen so far.”
The SD Youth Foundation, Inc. was formed in September 2015 by a group of community leaders and volunteers searching for ways to better meet the needs of SD youth in communities across the state. Their goal: act as a catalyst to bring youth organizations together to work for community solutions.
Together, as partners, the foundation secures resources and collaborates on programming to help young people develop skills for healthier lifestyles, promote character education as a way of life in schools and communities, and interest older youth in teaching as a professional career.