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Molding minds: Teens teach elementary students Spanish

Many people anticipate Friday. It can mean the end of a long week or the hopeful start of the weekend. Once a month, kindergarteners and first graders at Conner Street Elementary School in Hurricane look forward to Friday because it means "the Spanish kids are coming!"

One Friday each month, Deborah Gibson, a Spanish teacher at Hurricane High School, has her Spanish III students visit Conner Street to tutor kindergarteners and first graders. Gibson's students often have a blast with the children, but tutoring does have its challenges.

"Because they're younger, it's hard for the children to just sit and listen. It's not uncommon to have two or three children asking questions at the same time," said Spanish student Candice Rickert.

Megan Ebbeskotte added, "Keeping their attention can be interesting because most of them can get bored easily."

She said that finding activities for the children to do that are not too difficult but not too easy can be a challenge as well. "They're at an important development stage. Working with them at their level is necessary."

But these challenges are worth it, Rickert said. "You can tell that the kindergarteners really enjoy having us there. They sincerely look forward to learning words in a new language. It's quite amazing."

Ebbeskotte also noticed how excited the children get about learning new information. "When you teach them something new and they comprehend what was just taught, their faces light up. It gives me a warm feeling inside to know that I am a part of this."

Groups of three or four of Gibson's high school students are assigned to their own classroom at Conner Street. Rickert and Ebbeskotte are both assigned to Sue Clark's kindergarten class. Although Gibson visits each class for short periods of time for observation, she leaves the teaching up to her students.

Because tutoring young children isn't always a piece of cake, Rickert has some advice for anyone interested in the activity: "Practicing patience is crucial when working with young children. Also, elementary school tutors need to care about the kids while still acting as the teacher and saying 'no' if need be."

Not to worry, though. Ebbeskotte assured, "Just knowing you're helping to better a child's understanding is a reward in itself. When that little boy comes up to you, gives you a hug and sits on your lap, you know exactly why you take the time to tutor children."


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