Many high-school students, when classes dismiss for the summer, don’t think about school until August. Three local youth, including a 2018 Scottsbluff High School graduate and two Bayard High School students, are returning to the classroom during break, but switching roles to become teachers of elementary students.
Three students are taking part in the Teens as Teachers program: Luis Cordova of Scottsbluff and Gordon Acosta and Alejandra Garza, both of Bayard. The program is sponsored by Nebraska Extension and now in its second year in Scotts Bluff, Morrill, and a handful of other counties in Nebraska.
Leo Sierra coordinates the program locally and said the goal of Teens as Teachers is to provide positive learning experiences to under-served audiences by youthful teachers who look like them. Sierra works in the Scotts Bluff County Extension office, coordinating a pair of programs designed to engage youth who have not traditionally been a part of the 4-H clientele, the 4-H mentoring program in Scotts Bluff County and also the TEAMS program. TEAMS stands for Together Everyone Achieves More Success and is intended to improve middle-school and high-school students’ chances of staying in school, graduating and attending college.
Cordova, Acosta and Garza are each developing learning activities based on 4-H curriculum, and then teaching the activities to students at Roosevelt Elementary School in Scottsbluff, Bayard Elementary School, and the Educational Service Unit 13 migrant school.
Cordova, Acosta and Garza recruited students to participate in a series of six lessons. Sierra has helped them set goals, select curriculum, create lesson plans and develop recruitment strategies. The teen-agers also received training at Lincoln. The two-day session provided them with information about 4-H, leadership, communication, building bonds, child development, experiential learning, curriculum development, lesson planning, class management, youth safety, and team-building.
The young teachers each developed a series of six activities. Cordova has taught the sessions at Roosevelt and Bayard, and all three will also share these lessons in July with students at the migrant school at Educational Service Unit No. 13. They also will help the local 4-H program with other projects this summer, along with other summer 4-H interns.
Each lesson consists of one-hour session designed to build on the previous lesson.
Cordova’s lessons are all hands-on, science or engineering related experiences, including paper rockets, catapults, popsicle-stick bridges, egg-drop experiment, racing tracks for marbles, and balloon-propelled carts. The students get to build the items, individually or in groups, as Cordova engages them in discussion about the procedure they will use, the names of the parts, testing, and rebuilding.
Cordova said he tries to help the students “think a little more outside the box.” He said he enjoys teaching the young students both in groups and individually – in groups because they will need to learn to collaborate and get along in college and the real world; and individually because the students are challenged to meet a deadline and work through problems.
Cordova recruited students before the summer program began. He went to their classrooms and visited with their parents.
The 2018 SHS grad said he hopes to attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney to major in mathematics education, and then teach practical math at the high-school level. He thinks the experience from Teens as Teachers will be beneficial.
Acosta, a junior-to-be at Bayard High School, is preparing lessons around topics related to animals. Lesson topics include agricultural literacy, poultry, swine, goats, sheep, and cattle. He plans to have a hands-on activity for each lesson, and also is arranging to bring in live animals to show the students.
He said he might be interested in teaching as a career, especially teaching agriculture. He has experience from participating in 4-H, showing poultry in the Morrill County Fair.
He plans to attend college, starting at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture at Curtis, and possibly at Western Nebraska Community College. Ultimately he wants to transfer his credits to UNL for a four-year degree.
Garza, who also will be a junior at Bayard, has put together lessons in making craft items, including an Australian rhythm stick, a Brazilian carnival mask, Chinese lanterns, Native American dream catchers, Japanese origami, and a Mexican eye of God. The lesson plans walk the students through making the crafts, as well as teaching them about the cultures from which they come.
Garza said she enjoys arts and crafts and could major in art in college. She plans to start visiting colleges she might attend.