As a student attending Dayton High School, I never imagined becoming an educator would teach me so much about myself. During my experience as a special learning mentor, I learned much more than I could have ever taught.
I have been a peer assistant for the past two years and my experience has been nothing short of incredible.
As a peer assistant, I work in the SLC room with the students and teachers. My job is to assist the students and help them with their school work. But most importantly, my job is to help them develop social relationships and teach them what friendship truly is. Being an SLC peer assistant, though perhaps not as conventional as aiding for a standard class, gives a much more impactful experience for both the student and assistant.
Being a peer assistant has taught me vital skills for everyday life such as time management, organization, and communication. Beyond that, it has taught me how to be patient, kind, and empathetic. I’ve learned how to work with people from many walks of life and I have created friendships that I will never forget.
Helen Escalada, the SLC teacher, has worked with many peer assistants. She feels that they are extremely helpful and that the special education students work better with the peer assistants. She stated that: “They [the peer assistants] have impacted the SLC students for sure.” She said that the class operates a lot better when the SLC students are given the opportunity to collaborate with their student mentors, who they see outside of their classroom every day.
The peer assistant program allows the special education students to work with people outside of who they typically would, and also gives the peer assistants a unique experience as educators. While the SLC students learn vital skills socially and educationally, the peer assistants are taught acceptance. In many ways, the program provides a learning experience for both the peer assistants and the SLC students.
Lorelei Lubbes is a sophomore at Dayton High School as well as a first year peer assistant who has had a learning experience similar to my own. “I had a connection with those kids.” She shares. She felt like she truly impacted the students by helping them work better in their environment. Being a peer assistant even made her consider exploring special education in her future.
My role as a peer assistant has impacted me beyond the classroom and I have fallen in love with teaching special education. It has helped me develop new perspectives and ways of thinking, while showing me my own worth as an educator. My interest in entering the special education field has skyrocketed, and now I — as well as others who have taken part in the SLC program — want to integrate special education into our lives. Moving forward, I want to teach others about healthy social interaction, as well as the true importance of accepting everyone.
Dayton is celebrating students of all kinds by creating inclusive learning opportunities like the peer assistant program. Students are learning how to broaden their social horizons by communicating with people of all kinds. Looking toward the future, The School District is becoming a safer educational space for every kind of student to feel accepted and empowered.
Hannah White is a junior at Dayton High School. With a love for people of all kinds, she aspires to study developmental psychology. She’s also passionate about all things music, having learned violin, trombone, and played euphonium for the Dayton High School band.
Emily Carter is a sophomore at Dayton High School. She has a passion for music and art, having drawn her whole life and played the flute for 3 years. She plans to go to OHSU after she graduates high school to study forensics and become a medical examiner.