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At RES, it's kids teaching kids

Rosemount Middle School eighth grader Anthony Knott works with a Rosemount Elementary School student on his reading Tuesday afternoon. Knott considers having the opportunity to tutor a reward for his own hard work in school.1 / 2
Maranda Burger likes serving as a role model for the students she reads with.2 / 2

An interesting partnership has is taking shape this year at Rosemount Elementary School. Every day after lunch, students separated by five years or more in age are bonding over books.

The program, a partnership between RES and Rosemount Middle School, grew out of a call by community education director Jim Brandl for more collaboration among school buildings. When RES principal Tom Idstrom heard that, he knew it made sense to work with RMS, which is located just a solid kickball shot from the RES front door. He approached RMS principal Mary Thompson and asked if she had any kids who would would be good candidates to read with some of his younger students.

When Thompson had identified the students, Idstrom spent time training them on the techniques RES teachers use, and on the proper way to work with students. After that, he sent them loose with a group of second graders.

So far, the results have been promising. At an age where students are used to working with adult volunteers, bringing in kids who are closer to their peer level makes for a different experience."I think it adds a unique relationship," Idstrom said. "Obviously they are appreciative of any adult working with them, but to have an older student, who I think younger kids admire anyway, and then for some older students who are genuine and kind and helpful, I think it does add a different type of volunteer relationship, because they're not volunteers, but they're clearly older and here's an older student who's taking an interest in them."

The eighth graders seem to get something out of the deal as well. Thompson said she chose students who weren't necessarily at the top of their class, but who had shown they could handle the responsibility that came with the assignment.

"They're not the kids that get chosen for everything, but I wanted to acknowledge that they're working hard," Thompson said. "It was an honor to be chosen, I feel, just because it's a responsibility. It's a huge responsibility because when they kids go over to the elementary school, elementary schoolers look up to middle schoolers. Middle schoolers look up to high schoolers.... You want to make sure that you're going to act appropriately, be responsible."

The middle schoolers make the walk across the parking lot to RES just about every day during their after-lunch activity period. They've had to miss a few days lately because of Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment testing, but they don't miss often.

Anthony Knott is one of the RMS students who has given up his time to help at RES. While classmates are playing dodgeball or working on homework, he's following along with a finger while the student he's been assigned to reads. He doesn't feel like he's missing out, though. He sees the opportunity as a reward for getting his grades up in sixth grade and keeping them up during his time at RMS.

"I like teaching them, because I used to not be able to read so well," Knott said.

The RMS students form a connection with their reading partners. They talk about birthdays, or what they did over the weekend. As she walked a student back to his classroom after Tuesday's session, eighth grader Maranda Burger was approached by a student she'd worked with earlier in the year. The girl asked Burger to come into her classroom and keep order because the teacher had left the room and her classmates were being unruly.

"It's fun to come here and be a role model," Burger said.