They earn credit, experience working with younger students
Instead of going to a traditional elective class at Lansing High School like many of her classmates, senior Melissa Poe reports to Lynda Schimke's first-grade class at Lansing Elementary School.
Poe and five other students at LHS help out teachers as student aides at Lansing Elementary and Lansing Intermediate School for an hour every day.
Before the 2003-2004 school year, LHS students could only be aides for teachers at the high school. While at the high school almost all teachers have student aides, none of the teachers at the elementary and intermediate schools had student aides.
"Teachers were begging for more help," LHS counselor Kristie Wessel said.
Some students choose to be aides for teachers with younger students because they are considering a future in education, while others just enjoy working with children.
Students aides do virtually anything the teachers need them to do. At the high school, aides generally grade papers or run errands for their teachers. At the elementary and intermediate schools, however, aides are more involved in the learning process. Many days Poe grades papers or helps students read, though she is still involved with everyday tasks such as changing the classroom bulletin board.
Student aides offer their younger counterparts an approachable and knowledgeable perspective to students' learning.
"That's how I remember it," Poe said.
Schimke sees the benefit of student aides through her first-graders' reactions to Poe's help.
"It's different coming from a high school student," Schimke said. "They look up to her like a big sister."
When students Poe helps see her around the community or while she is working as a lifeguard at the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City, Kan., Poe said they come up to her and give her hugs.
Wessel makes sure she can count on students who apply to be aides to be trustworthy enough to leave the building and come back based on teacher recommendations. Student aides check out of the building with a counselor before they leave and check in at the school where they work. Student aides, typically sophomores and older, are graded on a pass/ fail scale based on their attendance and evaluations.
For some it is an opportunity to give back to teachers they had when they were young. Some teachers request former students, while others, like Schimke and Poe, are paired up randomly.
"I saw her pass through the schools, but I didn't have her," Schimke said. Poe began being an aide for Schimke last year as a junior, and the pair has developed a sister-like bond, something Schimke will miss when Poe graduates in May.
"She's going to be a hard act to follow," Schimke said.