Educators have a tough job. We need to prepare our students to be competitive in today’s global economy. I believe the best way to get our Kentucky kids ready for life after the classroom is to truly know each and every student so I can push them to reach their goals. Thankfully, South Floyd Elementary School has a unique approach to teaching that centers on not just teaching students, but mentoring students as well.

Last year South Floyd incorporated research-backed approach to teaching called Summit Learning via our participation in the Summit Learning Program. In addition to introducing project-based learning (a focus on learning through real-world projects) and personalized instruction to reach every student, the program includes a robust mentoring component. We’ve always valued real relationships with students and their families, and this program insures every 8th grade student has a mentor and mentoring group. Our students meet with their mentor group every morning. . During this 35 minute block of time, students participate in team building activities, homework help, and get time to individually meet with their mentor. As a mentor I speak discuss progress, setbacks and goal-setting so they can succeed. 

Aside from the mentoring students receive from me, I’ve also seen them really thrive in their peer groups. In particular, the camaraderie developed in each group has led to a heightened sense of belonging. I’ve seen that have an impact on student attendance - with improvements during the winter months when the weather used to be an excuse not to come in. Now they’re making their way to school.

Mentoring has improved not only student attendance but their grade point averages and overall perception of school. Students write teacher notes on #ThankfulThursday to show their appreciation for them as a mentor, or  give them a shout-out for something that they had done. Such rapport is essential to student success both in- and-out of the classroom. 

As we begin our new school year, SFES plans to create even more mentoring opportunities for our students by creating smaller groups. This will ensure that all students have access and support from at least one adult, at school, every single day.  

Kelsey Tackett is a primary education teacher at South Floyd Elementary. 

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