Peer Academic Network seeks to link education and service

Peer Academic Network seeks to link education and service

Junior Erica Coffee works on a project in her Physics class. Coffee applied and was accepted to the Peer Academic Network course that’s new for the 2013-14 school year. “When I heard about the new program, it seemed like a great opportunity to try something new and volunteer,” Coffee said.

Fairmont High School is known for its excellence in education as well as service, racking up hundreds of service hours each year between National Honor Society and International Baccalaureate courses. So, with colleges starting to incorporate an element of service and service education into their curriculum, Fairmont has developed the Peer Academic Network course for the 2013-14 schedule.

Coordinated by Central Unit teacher Chelsea VanHorn, the course will focus on students learning to help their fellow classmates with tutoring in core subject intervention rooms. Students will assist the teachers in the course, helping students to prepare for tests, exams, the OGTs and providing general guidance with academic needs. The students selected for this course may do it for a semester or an entire year and earn 1/2 general elective credit per semester.

“The goals of this class are to establish a service learning course at Fairmont,” said VanHorn. “At the college level, there are many schools that are exposing their students to tutoring and (working as) teacher’s assistants. This is great for students who want to be teachers.”

VanHorn’s inspiration was a similar course during her high school years. “My experience was eye-opening and I want to share that with students,” she said.

The course traveled through the approval process rapidly — a few months as compared to as much as a few years. But, in this case, speed is not a problem, said Fairmont Principal Dan VonHandorf. “One factor that helped to speed the process along was Ms. VanHorn’s detailed and well-thought-out plan,” he said. “I’m sure, like anything you try for the first time, there will be problems that will need to be worked out, but I’m confident our staff will be able to work these out.”

VonHandorf said other factors contributed to the swift approval of the course, noting that the biggest parts of developing a new course are research and getting new books. “This class doesn’t have many outside factors affecting the class, so we don’t need to spend any money searching for books and doing research.”

VonHandorf and VanHorn agree the course is well-suited to Fairmont students, especially those who want to be teachers. “Many of our best teachers are Fairmont High School alumni,” said VonHandorf. “It’s letting students help by ‘teaching’ students material that they may not have picked up the first time.”

The class is open to juniors and seniors who have a minimum 3.0 GPA in advanced courses of study. In addition, applicants must submit character and academic recommendations from two teachers and a guidance counselor.

“A junior or senior who wants to get into teaching or just have this experience should sign up for the class,” VanHorn said. “It’s a really great experience for anyone who wants to be a teacher.”