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Sup with the Sup
Sup with the Sup
Episode 27: Centennial's Parent Volunteer Program

Welcome, everyone, to the next episode of Provo City School District’s What’s Up With The Sup podcast. I am Superintendent Wendy Dau. This week, I am joined by Trisha Midgley, a science teacher at Centennial Middle School, Sophie Swan, who runs the program that we’re going to be talking about today, and Jami Martinson, the PTA president for Centennial Middle School. We will be discussing Centennial’s new parent volunteer program and how it has helped students and teachers at the school.

But first let’s go over our updates.

  • We want to recognize that February is Black History Month and CTE Month.
  • Please remember that Monday, February 19th is President’s Day and there will be no school. We hope you have a great, long weekend.
  • The next school board meeting will be a study session and business meeting on Tuesday, February 27th. Study sessions are held in Boardroom 1 at the District Office and business meetings take place in the Professional Development Center. Both meetings are open to the public and public comment is welcome at the business meeting.
  • Parent teacher conferences are continuing this month with middle schools on February 20th. Check your school for detailed information.
  • And look for the weekly videocast from me every Friday. In this short video, I provide important information and updates about work happening throughout the district.

Joining me today is Tricia Midgley. She is a science teacher here at Centennial Middle School. I have Jamie Martinson, who is our PTA president and parent volunteer, and Sophie Swan, who runs our program. So welcome everyone.

Guests: Thank you. Thank you.

Wendy: Thank you so much for being here. So I was so excited to hear about this program. Actually, the first I saw about it was on Principal Taylor’s Instagram post and she was calling for volunteers. And I was like, okay, I think I need to know more about this. And then she stopped me at the steering committee meeting this week. And she’s like, well, if you need an idea for a podcast, and I’m like, I always need a good idea for a podcast. So here we are, Tricia, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about this parent outreach program? And what made you think of this? And sure. Yeah, just give us some background.

Tricia: Absolutely. I’d love to. This all started. As a teacher, many of us have been there, in the classroom, you have a lot of kids with a lot of different needs.

And kids do not come into the classroom on the same footing. Um, you have kids coming into the classroom that, um, maybe have difficult home lives, some of them have, learning disabilities, some of them have physical disabilities, some of them might have English as a second language. Or they might just have behavior like ADHD or, just something that makes learning difficult, makes focusing difficult, and makes sometimes even motivation difficult.

Wendy: Yes.

Tircia: So, as we all know.

Wendy: Yes, we do. Even adults experience the motivation difficulty. Yes.

Tricia: So, as a teacher, you’re in the classroom and you want more than anything to meet those kids’ needs. That’s what you want. You want every kid to have the same. education as every other kid. And they’re not coming in on the same foot.

They’re coming in at a disadvantage. In my opinion, those kids deserve extra attention. They need extra attention. That’s what they need. So that’s what I determined. They need extra attention. And as a teacher, I was desperately trying to give them that extra attention. And, and it just, it can’t work. Um, it can’t work under the current system. I just found it very difficult cause I’m putting out a lot of fires. I’m trying to teach, I’m trying to teach kids with 35, you know, 35 different kids with, you know, 35 different needs. And so, you know, as a, as a teachers do, we try to figure out how to solve our problems. So I thought instructional aides, that’s what we need.

We really need more aides in the classroom. Cause then I can train aides to, um, talk to this person, keep them, help them stay focused, help them pick up their pencil, you know, just help meet the kid’s needs with that little extra attention. So that’s really what it boils down to is the program began with a need for extra attention to, for kids who not only need it, but deserve it. Like they deserve to have it. They didn’t ask for these situations in life and they deserve to have those extra needs met. And I felt like, how can we do that? Um, when it became clear resources and funding and all sorts of stuff, we couldn’t get extra additional aids for the classroom.

I started to think, well, we need bodies, we need people. And there were these wonderful parents. I have such a good working relationship with the parents of my students and I thought they’re all so supportive and they’re always saying what can we do to help? How can we support you and the PTA is always coming to us saying how can we support you? What can we do? And I’m like light bulb Like this is it. Itt doesn’t require funding they’re willing to donate their their time. The generosity is just incredible there to meet the needs of these students. So I thought, Parent Volunteer Program, let’s get this going. And so I started thinking about it and started getting ideas and thinking about what I would do.

But as you can imagine, I’m a very busy teacher.

Wendy: Yes, you are a very busy teacher.

Tricia: So it’s like, how is this, how is this going to happen? How am I going to make this a reality? Because I kept like, missing deadlines and like, trying to, okay, yeah, I’m going to do that, I’m going to, because I’d have these great ideas and I’d come to the PTA meeting, but it just, it was difficult.

So, and then, another light bulb. And this one said, um, I am part of the STEM Action Center. Um, it’s called the science education innovators cohort. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it.

Wendy: Yes. Yep.

Tricia: SEI cohort. So anyway, so I’m a part of that. I applied last year and I’m on it and I’ve been brainstorming about problem of practice and then it all came together. That is my problem with practice.

Wendy: Oh, that’s incredible. And so that became my mission for that, and that program comes with grant money. Yes. And that’s what I needed.

Wendy: And you needed to, you needed a few resources to also support this idea, right?

Tricia: And so that’s what brought Sophie on board, is Sophie is a BYU student studying science education. And she comes to my classroom. She had come to my classroom regularly to observe because they are required to do observations for science education. So she had come often to observe and so I’d gotten to know her. She knew my vision because I used to talk about it to her all the time. I was bending her ear constantly. I just could tell that she was a kindred spirit. I could tell that she felt the same way I did, that she saw the needs of these kids. I could tell that she loved the kids as much as I did. I just knew I was like, that’s who we need. This is who we need. So I talked to her about it and she said yes. So we’re using my grant money from the STEM Action Center’s program to fund, basically to fund the program because she’s the one making it happen.

And it’s going amazing. And that’s where we should let these two talk because we have had some incredible, incredible experiences.

Wendy: So, Sophie, let’s start with you. Tell us a little bit about what your role is and what, and what you do to, and what you have been doing to help support this vision that Trisha’s had.

Sophie: Yeah, absolutely. To start, I want to address what Tricia was saying about being a kindred spirit. I was one of these students in school. I had a IEP and 504 and ADHD and learning disabilities in language and was illiterate until the fourth grade and I would not be here today, as a university student, without the help of people in the community and all the tutors and things that I had and so I wanted to help make that possible for other students here in our community so that they would have the same opportunities I did.

Wendy: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. So you’re using this personal experience to give back and then, and then you want to be a teacher as well. Oh my gosh. It just makes my heart so happy. I love it when I meet people who are studying to be teachers, it just makes me excited. So, okay, keep going. I interrupted you.

Sophie: That’s okay. Um, and so when we started talking about how we wanted to really get this program off the ground we started brainstorming all of these ideas and as a student it was like well why don’t we bring other students in the classroom why don’t we make it more than just parents because parents are busy people, right? Why don’t we make it more than just parents let’s bring in Um, maybe some engineers that work nearby that might have some extra time or students who are also studying education and want to come help in the classroom. Even, you know, I know many students who love to volunteer their time or even professors who are willing to give extra credit for students to come and volunteer their time.

Wendy: That’s amazing. Yes.

Sophie: And so we just want to find a way to bring as many people as we can to share their experiences with students, their educational experience, and also help drive students to kind of see a future for themselves. Middle school is a very difficult time for a lot of students. And this is another way for them to kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel and hear stories from people who have been there and done that and really get the support that they need so that they can achieve.

Wendy: That’s incredible. Okay, let’s talk a little bit about the logistics of this. So let’s turn to Jami for a minute and talk a little bit about how the PTA is helping to support this and what your role has been in this.

Jami: Thank you. And first of all, I just want to say both of you ladies are amazing and inspiring and I love, Sophie, that you took something that was difficult for you growing up and that you’ve turned it into something wonderful to bless other people through your empathy and your understanding of how that feels.

I think mostly for us, the way that we have supported this program every month, we have PTA meetings and Tricia is our teacher rep. And so she comes and Sophie has been coming the last couple of months and just talking about it and talking about the need. Having that platform for them to come and, and share the need that they have has been really helpful.

We started out with one of our parents volunteering to handle the sign up genius. Um, talking with Trisha, communicating with her, um, about That was before we got Sophie. We didn’t have Sophie yet. Yeah, there was a parent volunteer, Catherine, who volunteered to kind of be Sophie a little bit. But, I mean, she has life and It’s so much. We all have It’s just overwhelming for her.

Wendy: Yeah. That quickly became a much bigger job than, than just a volunteer kind of thing. Yeah. Yeah.

Jam: So we have Emily Ensign send the sign up genius out every week in their weekly centennial email and there’s a link that goes to the sign up and there’s different teachers who have their days and their times and their subject.

And so parents can just sign up that way. So, and it’s kind of all of an experiment a little bit just because it’s so new and we’re trying to figure out does this work or would this, you know, and that’s what wonderful Sophie is going to, you know, continue to try and figure out. I am fully supportive. Just some of my background.I taught school for seven years, second, third and fourth grade. And then I had my children and haven’t been working for 13 years and I just went back and started subbing, but I know how hard it is to have all of these kids, all of these different needs and, um, backgrounds and trying to do it all. It’s so hard.

And in the elementary school level, parents are really welcome. Parents are just, please come and, and handle the center. I work in my son’s second grade class and I just see how much she’s doing with these little groups at the back table while a couple of other parents are handling different learning activities and, and it’s amazing, teachers can do so much when there’s other bodies in the room and, and helping hands, but then they go to middle school and um, In the past, it’s kind of been hands off and even before I had Centennial students, I heard lots of parents say, we’re just, we’re not welcome there. It’s kind of a closed campus, you know, they don’t want parents there. Or I, at least that was kind of the message that a lot of parents got.

With this program, it’s been amazing, and parents have told me, like, there is a different feeling there. From walking in to the office staff, there’s just this positive energy, this positivity, um, from the office staff to the teachers, and we can feel it.

And that makes a difference. The parent said specifically, I think that makes a lot of difference, and there’s a shift in students behavior, and.

Tricia: That was one of the very first things we fought to break down is that perception that in the secondary parents don’t come. They just automatically think, Oh, sixth grade, I’m done. You know, you don’t go in cause they don’t, you know, there was, like you say, I think there really was a feel of, we don’t want parents here. And we’re like, we’re going to change that. We really, really need to change that, right? Why would parents not want to come? This is when we need you the most. Well, I don’t know about the most, but definitely this is when we need you. This is when these kids need extra mentors in their life. Why would we not want parents? We definitely want to break down any barriers of any reason why a parent wouldn’t feel really comfortable coming in saying I’m here to volunteer in a classroom. We want to make that absolutely. we’re doing this.

Wendy: Well, and I think, too, it takes some planning for a teacher to figure out, like, how am I going to use this volunteer? And what does that look like? I know, as a high school principal, we would say we could probably get parents in here to help you. And they’re like, I don’t have time to plan for that. And I was just like, No, you don’t understand. I think it will actually make your workload less over time. But it is it’s a secondary mindset, very much so. I mean, at the high school, especially. So talk a little bit about that. It sounds like you have some personal experience with this, Sophie.

Sophie: Yes, and that is one of the things that we are trying to overcome with the teachers here. This is a very new program, and so a lot of the teachers are a little nervous about how it’s going to look in their classroom. So far, we have kind of a handful of teachers that have repeatedly come back, but something I’ve noticed after running our signups is we get a teacher that will sign up for one class and they’ll get one volunteer and then the next week they have signed up every one of their classes to get a parent volunteer.

As far as my own experience. I, in school, definitely needed that extra help and noticed that as I got older, it wasn’t there. And I think that that is something that we could really change. Students develop all at different rates, and just because you think, oh, this kid’s 13, like, they should be able to handle it on their own, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can or they know how.

Or they may just want somebody to kind of hold their hand and help them through it. And to have parents in the classroom, not only are you kind of showing that your community has a sense of civic duty and wants to be there for you, but you’re allowing your students to get to know more people, have more experiences, and gain the confidence that they need to advocate for themselves, whether it be in their education or their future professional lives.

Wendy: Well, and I think it’s interesting, too, like when you think about people have preconceived notions if their kids are not in school about what’s happening in the classes, and I mean, we make sitcoms about it, actually, about what’s taking place in schools. And so to invite the parents in to say come help us, it also helps them to advocate for teachers. Even I mean, I’m thinking about we’re in the legislative session. You know, how do we advocate for what it is that our teachers need? The more people are really seeing this firsthand, the more they can reinforce what it is teachers and administrators are telling our lawmakers about the supports that we need.

Tricia: So, you know, I just wanted to add on teacher buy in was also one of the big barriers we’ve had from the very beginning, as you kind of hinted at. Because a lot of teachers thought exactly what you were just saying, like, what am I going to do with them? So that was one of the first things we did was, I typed up like a list of, how many was it, like 10 to 12 things that a teacher could have someone do whether they’re prepared or not, you know. So the grant that I’m a part of is a five year program. Okay, this is like a pilot year. We’re just like getting started and so I’m planning on spending those five years helping teachers to see here’s what you can do. And this was what it can look like and that’s we’re still in the beginning stages of that trying to but I really really am hoping that we can give teachers more ideas.Give teachers resources. Like, this is what this parent can do. Look what happened right here. Look. And so we’re trying to have these experiences, the ones that are having them, and then sharing those experiences. Wendy: Okay.

Tricia: We are also in the process of making a slide presentation, too, for the teachers. Backed with research. We want the teachers to know there is research that supports extra mentors in the classroom at a, specifically at a secondary level.

Um, I was just at my SEI meeting yesterday and there is a program with math. It’s not with science, but with math that the state is doing. I can’t remember who she said is doing that, but the director is going to reach out to me and give me the research behind it. But they did research that supported extra mentors, aides, parents, mentors in the high school classrooms. Research shows that it does make a significant difference in the achievement. And so if we can convince teachers of that, and teach them and show them, here’s what you can have the parent do, here’s how you can utilize that parent, because it’s true right now, parent walks in, a lot of teachers are like, have a seat.

Wendy: Uhhh, I’ll think of something. I don’t know.

Tricia: And they feel stress. And then they’re like, I can’t do that because it’s too much stress. Yeah. But we’re going to try to overcome those barriers over the next, like, five years, hopefully. Yeah. It’ll become more, like, intuitive. Like, teacher, Oh, right here. I know exactly what to have you do when a parent comes in.

Jami: The other day I was subbing in an elementary school and just kind of going along with that and to take a pressure off of the teachers, even just having a parent come in, which a parent volunteer came in and of course I’m not the teacher, so I don’t really know what they do. But just having that parent come and sit by a student who didn’t speak English, can you just, can you just sit in between these two students and just read it for them or go to Google Translate and just see if you can, just, just some help, and that doesn’t require any planning.

But it’s so helpful and it helps those students to stay engaged and also to feel seen and valued. Tricia:I love it I

Jami: don’t know if that’s helpful for teachers.

Tricia: It warms my heart. It warms my heart to hear that So, can I just share a quick story experience I’ve just in my classroom. We’ve had multiple experiences with this program already.

That’s why we’re so excited about it because Just what was it a week and a half ago? Um, a parent came in and she had signed up and she walked in and this was lucky because I have a student teacher right now so I could be in the back and train her specifically what I wanted. Sometimes we don’t have time.

That’s, we’re still working out the kinks on how to make this all managed but I just am in a good situation right now where I do have some support. So I was able to say, you know what, we looked at the list, we looked at, you know, the seating chart, and I said, Johan could really use some extra support today.

I really would love for him to pass this quiz. And I said, Des, can you just sit down with him, go over his notes with him, help him fill in any blanks he has, you know, and she was such a sweetheart. She was really open to doing that. She’s like, I don’t know science, but I can like just kind of read the instructions and help them understand what the instructions say and then walk them through thinking it through.

And she said, and I’ll just try, I’ll just do my best. And then I said, and then ask him to take the quiz and you can’t help him on the quiz. You can’t like tell him the answers, but you can read questions to him. You can encourage him to keep doing it and not to get distracted. You can just be there. But mostly I just want you to make him feel like encouraged, like positive, like, you can do this, you can do this.

And also there is an account of accountability. No, we’re not going to talk to our friends right now. Just You know, lovingly, um, showing them that this is what we’re going to do. This is it. And so there’s some discipline involved a teeny bit, but it takes time. This parent was like pre trained, you know, she was, she was amazing.

Anyway, she said, I’ll try it. So this is what I tell her in like the first five minutes of class. And I’m wondering, okay, some parents, you may tell that too and they’re like, I have no idea how to do this. I don’t know, you know, but she was just the type of person that could, she just took it all and said, yeah.

And she was confident. And she sat down with Johan and they just clicked. Johan, listen to her. He let her help him and I have tried to help Johan. I help him when I can, but I’m also helping 35 other kids and I can’t just sit and stay. She could sit and stay. He went over, he filled in the notes, he did the whole notes, he took the quiz, he passed the quiz.

And you should have seen that boy’s face. And you could just see it. He was just beaming. He was literally just beaming. And that was just one kid. But this is happening every time a parent comes in the room. You have these kids that are like, Oh, I guess I can do this. And that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for those little wins so that the kids can come in and think, oh, maybe I can do this. They just need a little extra attention. That’s all they need.

Wendy: What I love about that story is it’s showing that we want to give that kind of support and help to every single kid. It’s just very difficult to find the resources to be able to do that. So if we can pull in those volunteers and then you’re identifying, cause it might be a different kid each time sometimes. It might be the same kid, but maybe it’s just a student who is having a particularly difficult day and you’re like, this student needs a little more tender, loving care, and we need to get them with someone that can help them be successful that day. So it allows for that flexibility, which is incredible. So tell me, Jami, a little bit about how you feel like this program has changed the relationship between the PTA and teachers. Has it changed it? What does that look like?

Jami: I think it has been a really good experience for both, and again, it is really new. I wanted to, to just mention to parents, just to not be overwhelmed, because I was listening to Tricia’s comment, and some of the parents are really experienced, and they have done this before, and they know what to do, and other parents, I think one of the obstacles is fear of the unexpected, and I’m not very confident in that subject. I don’t know, I haven’t done math for, you know, 20 years or whatever, just try to, to overcome, you know, that fear. And I would just say, just come and try it. It’s a really amazing experience. It’s just great. And I have just gotten to know a lot of the teachers. I love teachers anyway, just because I’ve been there, and I have empathy for, for what they go through, and I know how dedicated they are, and that’s a shout out for all the teachers here at Centennial and Provost and everywhere. Being in the classroom really opens your eyes and really helps you understand the needs and understand how we, as a community, can help these kids to reach their potential and to be seen and valued. I that’s just such an important part of their, their overall wellbeing, which is the mission of the PTA is to, to help those kids with all of the aspects of, of their wellbeing and just being in the classroom and seeing directly what is being taught and how it’s being taught and how these kids are learning and what struggles they’re having. So valuable and meaningful too. You just feel like. I’m really doing something good.

Tricia: It’s fulfilling. Just an answer also to your question. So, I remember the first parent that came in, like, clear back when we first started. Can’t remember her name. She was incredible. But she came and she was like, I don’t know what I’m doing.

But she just jumped right in and we said, work with this group on this. That was the day we split into three groups. And you were helping one group. She was helping one group. And I was helping another group. And the feeling in the room was absolutely incredible. Because we could see every kid engaged. Every kid was engaged and was learning and overcoming obstacles in their brain of understanding. They truly were. And so we did it all and we finished and we all, and then the three of us stood together and we were all just like beaming. This parent, I’m not kidding. I wish I could remember her name, but she was just like, that was so fun.

That was her response. And then Sophie and I felt it too. We’re like every kid. Like, no, no behavior problems or discipline problems because they were engaged in learning. And that’s what we’re trying to get to. And it took three people to do that in a classroom of 37. We need more people in the classrooms. And that was such a positive. So in our relationship with them, that parent’s like, I’m coming back. That’s what she said. And every parent that’s come in that’s had those kinds of experiences has said to me, Why don’t I do this more often? I’m coming back. This is really rewarding. They feel the reward of helping a kid who really needs it and they feel it like you felt it.

I mean, and they’re like, Yeah, I’m gonna do that again. They really I think it is a growing kind of love. It kind of grows on you.

Wendy: I think it’s also good for students to see that there are other individuals that might not be experts in this particular field and they’re kind of working through it too, because sometimes I think students are like, I’m never going to be as smart as my teacher is at this.

And so they don’t understand what this is like. But then to watch an adult kind of struggle through that and they’re working through it. It’s like, Oh, well, this is okay. It’s okay to not know exactly what I’m doing at every single second, right?

Tricia: Absolutely.

Wendy: So that, that really helps. There’s just a ton of research that shows that when students see parents in the classroom, it does, it changes their achievement levels. Not only are they getting more of that individual attention, but they do feel seen and they feel valued and they just have more people that they can ask. for help. Sometimes I think kids are like, I don’t want to bother the teachers. She’s doing this. She’s helping all of these kids. And there’s all this going on. And I’ll just wait. I don’t want to be an inconvenience. And so if there is that accessibility, it definitely makes a difference.

Sophie: So that’s what we’re going for. There’s also just some something to be said about being able to bring that classroom atmosphere back home and have that educational experience at home with your family.

Um, I know a lot of parents sometimes feel lost when they go and help with homework or anything that might be happening in the educational system of their child. Sometimes they feel a little lost. And so to be able to bring that atmosphere of education home with you and to kind of know what’s going on really, really makes a difference at home.

Wendy: That does help. I know, you know, when I was trying to help my kids with math and I think I would just get more frustrated than they were because I was just realizing I didn’t know as much so if I could have struggled with the teacher in the classroom, then that probably would have been much more effective.

So are there other things that you would like to share or stories or you kind of alluded to it’s changing the dynamic a little bit between the community and Centennial Middle School. If you want to speak a little bit more to that and what’s happening there.

Jami: I would love to share an experience that I had and also a couple of experiences that other parents have shared with me.

Wendy: That’d be great.

Jami; I was in Mrs. Harker’s eighth grade English class, and it was so cute because they were so curious why I was there. They just kept asking, who are you? Why are you here? Why are you in our classroom? They were learning about creeds. They had each had a different assignment to read a passage of an author’s creed.

Uh, and so I walked around and I just kind of helped. Then be on task and find where, you know, where the passage was in their canvas. And some of them, I just knelt down beside and read the passage with them and would ask them questions. And after they had an assignment to create their own creed and to think about what is important to them, which I just, I love that topic.

And I think that’s so important, but I sat down with one of the students and I could tell like, this was a class where there were several students who struggled with school, staying on task. And so I sat by one of them. And I just looked at him and I said, what’s, what’s important to you? And he started talking about fishing, just that he loved to go fishing.

And I asked him, why do you love that? Why is that important to you? And he said, it’s just really peaceful. And I ended up leaving him and while he was thinking of other ideas and I talked to another student about what was important to him. We had a great conversation about how he loved to cook with his mom. And I asked him where he was from, I could tell that he wasn’t from here, and so we talked about the different kinds of dishes that they cook together, and I could tell that he was a little bit surprised why I was continuing to ask him questions, and that he was kind of touched, and that he felt seen, like we’ve been talking about, and valued, and as I walked, around.

Sorry, I might get emotional.

Wendy: That’s okay. That’s okay. That’s how powerful this is.

Jami: But as I, as I walked around the class, I just was so inspired at how deep these kids could think and, and what was important to them and their goals and their dreams, because it’s a little bit of a deep subject. It was just really eye opening and inspiring.

And I just realized that, again, what I’m doing is making a difference. The next month, I was walking into the PTA meeting, and one of these students, actually the one that I was talking to about fishing, saw me and he said, Hey, remember me?

Wendy: Oh, that’s awesome.

Jami: And I didn’t remember his name, but I remembered him really well. And I was like, hey, how’s it going? And, and I just felt this connection. And I, I just, that was a big realization to me that what, what we’re doing here is important. And, and that us asking questions and making those connections with these kids is so valuable for them and it’s Motivating for them. It was just meaningful for them that somebody was asking and was genuinely interested in them.

Wendy: And they got to tell their story as they were kind of doing this assignment too. I love that. That’s very powerful.

Jami: And that’s kind of, that’s kind of what I’ve heard from other parents. Do you mind if I?

Wendy: No, please, please.

Jami: One said, I went through and explained the assignment to him and helped him fill it in as we went.

This certain boy understood it by the end and I feel like he felt happy to have that awesome information in his mind and heart. It was the one about the engineering design process. The other boys, I explained it to, seemed pleased, too. It was so fun being there, and I wanted to thank you for the opportunity.

Wendy: That’s great.

And then another parent, another parent said, I felt very useful because students were working at their own pace and needed individual attention. This was a math class that would have been difficult for just the teacher to provide. Also, there was a multi language learner in the class who needed one-on-one assistance to understand the math concepts.

It has been fun to go back to my job as an elementary math teacher in the district and tell the sixth graders about how What they are learning now will help them when they go to Centennial and have this particular math lesson that I helped with. So this is a parent that works as a an aide and she has Fridays off and so she must have just come on Friday. Which is great about the program: it’s just you pick whenever it’s good for you and and come.

And then the last one, she said I helped a few students decide on their essay topics and even helped them create a brainstorm of ideas on paper. Some just needed that gentle nudge and guidance to get on track and begin writing. They really do just need extra hands and ears in the classrooms to make sure all the kids get a chance to be seen.

It’s just kind of a common thread with all the volunteers. Just, this is such a critical time for them. And they’re leaving, they’re leaving this family unit from elementary school where they’re together and they know their teachers and, you know, thrown into this big school of 1100 kids and all of the problems that come with that, even just the physical changes their bodies going through and academic pressure that used to be reserved for high school, you know, just all of these different things that that they’re feeling.

And so if they can have more role models, more just warm, caring adults that care about them and that can connect with them, the better for them. And I just am such a believer in community. And there’s so much expertise and experience within our community. UVU and BYU, just like Sophie was talking about. Retired men and women who have just these incredible, you know, vast experiences.

Tricia: I just love, love. I really, really love what she’s talking about right now. Before I became a teacher, I was a stay at home mom for many, many years. And then after my kids were grown up, I was kind of like, okay, I think I want to teach. I’d always loved teaching. That was what my degree was in. And I got back into it, but while I was a stay at home mom, I was heavily, heavily involved in the classroom. The community was my life. And I see, I see the value of that. And when you just were talking about those, those experiences. Every time that happens, every time a parent comes in the classroom, like I did when I was in that stage, you are making a connection that is tying together all of us.

We need to be a team as a community. This is public school. It’s our school. This is our kids. We are all there as a team. That means parents. That means family members, that means administrators, that means teachers, mentors of every kind, in every part of the community need to be coming together and taking public education.

These are our kids. It’s not just Centennial’s kids. These are our community’s kids. And we can all work together as a team. We have got to work together as a team. We have got to. And that’s, that’s the heart of this.

Wendy: Well, I think one of the things, too, that I hear from teachers as I’ve been going around the district is our class sizes. I can’t get to every kid, right? And I, I’m trying. I’m working my tail off. That is really a challenge. And so the more adults I can put into that room, then it does help, right? It at least allows the teacher to be able to do more of what they want to do. And they end up feeling more effective. I think the kids feel more effective.

They feel like, oh, I’ve accomplished something. This is a pretty powerful thing. And you recognize how it really does take all of us working together, and that’s how we see student success. We miss any one of these pieces, and our success can only go so far. It has to be all of us that are part of that.

Tricia: It’s kind of started with a cloning too. You know, I really wanted to clone myself. I’ve had teachers out there, have you ever felt that?

Wendy: Yes.

Tricia: We want to clone ourselves because, We want to do this and that and help this kid and that kid and sit in the back and do this and, and do all our grading and our emailing and our, yes, all the admin stuff, lab supplies, get them all cleaned and ordered. And, um, anyway, this, this is, this program is designed to clone teachers.

Wendy: There you go. That’s right. I love it. Anything else that you would like to share with us as we close out our podcast?

Sophie: I would really like to kind of touch on where we kind of want to go with this.

Wendy: Oh yeah. That’s a great, I’m glad you’re addressing that. Yeah, what are our next steps? Here we go.

Sophie: Yes, we have definitely worked to kind of expand here at Centennial. But recently we’ve been reaching out to other programs. So I have been in contact with the executive director of TOPS at BYU to try and create some sort of relationship there. And not only but also like the UVU, um, education department, and really just trying to get the word out there that we have a need.

And we’ve kind of talked about possibly in the future, a couple of years down the road, being able to expand this outside of Centennial, um, and really being able to pull in more schools and even multiple districts if possible. And it’s kind of our goal is to reach as many students as possible.

Wendy: Those are great goals to have, um, as you’re looking in the future. It makes me a little bit tired. So you guys are going to be very tired as you’re doing all of that.

Jami: But I would please if it’s okay, I would just like to invite all of the parents in our district just and grandparents. We had one of our most successful activities here at Centennial was our constitution booth and we had one of our students’ grandparents come and run that.

Wendy: I do remember seeing that.

Jami: And it was so fun and just grandparents are needed, right? Like everybody loves grandparents. Um, so and, you know, neighbors, friends, parents, we just invite you to come and something that I, I heard said recently was that the best experiences in life lie just outside our comfort zone.

And I have felt that so many times, I feel that right now. When I was asked to do this podcast, my heart, my heart rate went up a thousand percent. I’ve never done this before. I’ve always watched on the other end, but just doing things that you’re afraid to do is powerful and you recognize that’s where your confidence comes is when you just overcome that fear.

And I think that’s one of the big obstacles. And so I just invite you, to just overcome that fear and, and find the time to do that one. One other thing, one of my favorite motivational speakers said, when your natural talents and passions connect with what the universe needs and becomes your purpose, you are living in your dharma or fulfilling your mission or calling, however you want to say that.

Um, and I love that idea. I just love, I love that. My question is, what are you passionate about? Are you passionate about math or science or writing or are you passionate just about education and or our youth? Do you just love youth and want them to succeed? I just invite you to come and use those passions and talents to meet the needs of our Centennial students because you are needed and that’s my invitation.

Tricia: Ditto. Yeah,

Wendy: I would love to have the link to the signup genius so that we could have, oh, see, I’ve got it right here. Here we go.

Tricia: We came prepared.

Wendy: Oh, you did. Because I just think that would be like one of the best ways I could spend some of my time in a day is to just come and be in a classroom and sit with a group of kids. And I don’t know, it just gives you such an understanding of a teacher’s lived experience and a kid’s lived experience.

Tricfia: Absolutely.

Wendy: And as we really understand each other’s lived experiences better. That’s when we find common ground. That’s when we can problem solve more creatively. And like we were talking about, those connections become really powerful. I want to thank all of you for being on this podcast. This has been so much fun, and I hope we can do it like again in a year.

And come and see what’s happened with the program and kind of update and, and just kind of track the progress and the momentum that it has. I think that would be really fun.

Ticia: You bet.

Jami: Awesome. You bet. We’d love it.

Wendy: Thank you again.

Guests: Thank you. Thanks for having us. Thanks so much.

Wendy: Thank you everyone for joining me for this episode of What’s Up with the Soup.

As always, all episodes will be posted on the district website, YouTube, and anywhere you get your podcasts. If you have any topics or questions you would like us to discuss on the podcast, please email us at Please be sure to join me again next week for an all new episode of What’s up with the Sup.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Shauna Sprunger
  • Coordinator of Communications
  • Shauna Sprunger