Mark Twain students mentor at Early Childhood Center
Posted on 11/09/2021
Mark Twain student Bryson Merriott participates in an activity in Terry DeShaney’s class.

A new partnership between Mark Twain and the Poplar Bluff Early Childhood Center is not only proving to be beneficial for the students at both age levels, but for the teachers facilitating.

“Part of alternative education is finding alternative ways of learning,” said Darla Nunn, Jobs for America’s Graduates specialist at Mark Twain School. “Our students are learning to interact with kids.”

Serving as a career-exploration opportunity, Mark Twain students began last month assisting teachers in classrooms at the Early Childhood Center once a week for an hour a day, split across morning and afternoon sessions.

The project-based learning exercise originated from student Peta Jay who made the suggestion during class discussion, and Nunn was able to connect the freshman with Early Childhood Principal JoAnne Westbrook, who was immediately receptive to the idea.

“We would love it if you would let us come to your school and mentor the students,” Peta wrote in an email. After working out the schedule, Westbrook responded affirmatively to Peta the very same day, stating: “We would love to have you all!”

Early Childhood teachers make plans to involve Mark Twain students in a classroom activity, or else they join the preschoolers during physical education or recess time. Early Childhood teacher Nancy Gill commented: “I really like the JAG program; it’s turning out really good. The kids love them.”

Westbrook pointed out that it has been positive for her faculty since many are veteran educators, and in some cases remember back when the older students had just entered the school system. “Once a teacher, always a teacher,” Westbrook said.

For the Early Childhood students, added Westbrook, “they may not have an older sibling, or a role model at that age.” And for Mark Twain students, she continued: “They feel needed, wanted and with purpose.”

While some Mark Twain students pass up on the opportunity because they feel interacting with children is not yet a strength, others appear to have a future in early childhood education, according to Nunn. In certain instances, she notes, the arrangement simply serves as a pick-me-up. “Sometimes we just gotta play toys,” Nunn said.


Cutline: Mark Twain student Bryson Merriott participates in an activity in Terry DeShaney’s class, teaching Early Childhood students the directions of over and under.

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