TBJH to have peer-to-peer course for winter semester

ALPENA — Alpena Public Schools Board of Education Curriculum and Technology Committee discussed on Tuesday a peer-to-peer course that is set to start in the winter at Thunder Bay Junior High.

Peer-to-peer is an accredited elective class that pairs a student with special needs with a peer mentor for one scheduled class each day.

“It will be an elective course at Thunder Bay Junior High,” interventions voach Tracey Urlaub said. “We will be pairing a general education student with a special needs student.”

Urlaub said the role of the peer mentor student would be attending class with the special needs student and assisting them with any academic and social needs, organization, helping with social skills and being a mentor.

TBJH teacher Mike Buchinger will be the instructor for the course. Buchinger will have the peer mentor students during PRIDE time during the school day and during that time, Buchinger will cover course content with the students.

Key concepts and units of study for the course include learning about autism spectrum disorder, special education disabilities, sensory differences, peer mediated instruction, language and construction, and social considerations.

“The peer mentors will be expected to journal their experiences everyday,” Urlaub said. “There will be quizzes that they will have to take in relation to the content that is taught.”

There also will be peer mentoring conference meetings where the peer mentors will meet with Urlaub and Buchinger and conference around their student. Urlaub said each special needs student will have two peer mentors who will conference around that student and their needs.

“The goal is to create an environment where all students are accepted,” Urlaub said. “The peer mentors are modeling that within the school culture.”

The peer mentor students will complete a final project, where they have to talk about the purpose of the peer-to-peer course, demonstrate the knowledge they have gained of various disabilities, and describe the impact the course has had on them and their peers.

During lunch time, Urlaub and Buchinger will promote the program to the students along with promoting the class on the school announcements. Urlaub and Buchinger also will talk to teachers about the class.

“I’m going to see what the interest is, and if we have a ton of interest then I will do an interview process to help select the students,” Urlaub said.

A letter will go home with any student who is interested in the class so parents can be informed about the class. An informational meeting with both parents and students will take place at the end of November and once the peer mentor students are selected, a meet and greet social will take place in December.

“I’ve seen some real positive things with school climate here in Alpena,” Superintendent John VanWagoner. “I think our staff believes that this will be a positive program for our school district.”

In other business:

∫ State Superintendent Brian Whiston is visiting Alpena Public Schools on Sept. 27. A drafted agenda has been released with Whiston visiting TBJH, the Wildcat Court Houses, Alpena High School, Besser Elementary, and NOAA. VanWagoner said the school district is excited to have Whiston come here and it is going to highlight the great things going on for Whiston to see.

∫ VanWagoner told the committee that AHS was selected to host a FIRST Robotics competition the first week of March. There will be about 40 teams participating in the competition. VanWagoner said there will be about 1,000 students participating and it’s a phenomenal opportunity for Alpena students and the community.

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.