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Episode 64: A Labor of Love for CHHS Students in Peer Tutoring Program

Some students at Copper Hills High School are the best pals anyone could ask for. They participate in the Peer Tutoring program and CH Pals Club. On this episode of the Supercast, we find out how Peer Tutors and CH Pals are changing lives, supporting students with special needs and making life-long friends in the process.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Hello, and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Some students at Copper Hills High School are the best pals anyone could ask for. They participate in the Peer Tutoring program and CH Pals Club on today's program. We find out how peer tutors and CH Pals are changing lives, supporting students with special needs and making the lifelong friends in the process. Let's start with a visit to Jackie Sheppick's classroom at Copper Hills High School, where she teaches students with special needs. Just describe, first of all, what is this class? It's exciting to be here already. If I can tell a lots going on.

Jackie:
Thank you. Yeah. So I teach this severe Special education class here at Copper Hill High School. We're a life skills class, so I'm really focusing on the essential elements of math, reading, and science. We also have to do things like health history, social studies, social skills transition into adulthood and just basic life skills.

Superintendent:
So how much of a student's schedule is involved in this class?

Jackie:
Yeah, so they have a full schedule. My students are typically with me three days, three class periods, and then they go out to a mainstream.

Superintendent:
Okay, great. So three classes with you, one mainstream class.

Jackie:
Yeah.

Superintendent:
What are some of the other things that you cover? I heard today, you talking about job applications and thinking about the right job. What are some of the other life skills that you covered throughout the year?

Jackie:
We cover a lot. I mean, things that you and I just do out of common courtesy or just because we were raised with social skills, my students need explicit instruction. And so we're working on things like self-advocacy, what's an IEP, why do I have an IEP? Do I have a disability? We work on job skills, restaurant skills, theater skills, transportation. We actually go out and use UTA. And that's always a fun unit. They get to experience going on a bus and riding the TRAX for the first time. We do things like foods, unit housing, how to pay bills, how to find an apartment to live in.

Superintendent:
It sounds like the type of skills that a lot of people could use some help with.

Jackie:
It's a lot. My peer tutors say it's actually funny. You say that because they'll come to me, you know, we'll be working on our restaurant unit and one of them will say, thank you for teaching us how to leave a tip because I didn't know how to leave a tip. I say, you're welcome. So now when you go on a date, you know how to leave a tip.

Superintendent:
I think, especially lately, there are just a lot of things that we don't end up doing and we don't do for ourselves until we absolutely have to. And so these are great skills for everyone to learn, right?

Jackie:
It's just so fun for me to see them, you know, come in as a sophomore and realize, wow, I'm in high school. I have to be an adult here soon. And by the time they're a senior, they are ready. They're independent. They know how to do money. They know how to be adult and how to function in society. And that's my greatest reward is to see them move and get jobs.

Superintendent:
And you had a student last year get his driver's license, which was amazing. That's great. So, can you just see the self-efficacy or the self-confidence grow when they realize, I can do this? There's something I couldn't do and now I can do it. And not only that, it's something I'm going to need to be a successful adult.

Jackie:
Yes. Actually that's one of my most favorite things is transitioning them to realizing what can I do, functionally? What can I really do academically? And then what can I do out in the real world? How can I be a functional citizen that isn't just existing, but adding to our community and making it

Superintendent:
What is the role played by peer tutors in this class?

Jackie:
Couldn't do it without peer tutors. I started the Peer Tutor program and I really just needed help. My first year, I had a lot of students. I didn't have enough hands to help me. And so I started having peer tutors come in and they would just start assisting with the reading, the math, the life skills. And then they actually helped take my students out to their mainstream classes so that they're not alone. I don't necessarily feel good about sending them by themselves to a full class with a teacher who has to give their attention to 45 kids. My students really needs a little bit more assistance and instruction and preparation. So I send them with a peer tutor and they go and help them out in that class. And it's absolutely amazing. You should see. There is something special at Copper Hills High School. I don't know what it is. The student body here is just top-notch and everyone welcomes my students and wants to help them and wants to see them succeed and treat them just like everyone else. And I love that. So peer tutoring has been a huge aspect of not only my job, but their lives because they have friends and they see them in the hall, they wave to them, they're buddies. And it's just so fun for me to see actual relationships form.

Superintendent:
It's encouraging and exciting, but not surprising to hear that Copper Hills Grizzlies are treating each other really well and taking good care of each other.

Jackie:
It's truly amazing. Peer tutoring started some ideas in my head about a club. it's called CH Pals and I just was getting so sad cause my students would come and hear the morning announcements we have and say, "Well, I wish I could go to the basketball game". But they wouldn't be able to go do.  What other high school kid has their mom come and babysit them during the basketball game? So we started CH Pals, positively affecting lives. And my students are just able to go with their peer tutors. And we had around 240 kids in our club last year. And they would all just take my whole class to a basketball game, to a football game, just so they could experience high school life. They all took them to a dance. We took them to prom. It's just so fun to see my students really get involved. And you know, the first year with CH Pals, we really kind of had to say," Hey, we're going to do this. We're going to try this." And now I have clubs and the SBOs and teachers coming to me, "Hey, will CH Pals be a part of this assembly? Will CH Pals do this?" And it's just so cool for me to see my students really accepted here. Inclusion is working at Copper Hills and it's amazing.

And it's a lifelong learning experience for the peer tutors and for the students. They're learning that people with disabilities have personalities too. They have likes, they have dislikes. They're human. They're not just people I should look and be say, "Oh, there's that kid. I can get to know him and see who he really is and learn about him." And maybe we have common interests and this sparks relationships and it's just so fun. Hopefully this helps my peer tutors realize, even in the future, people with disabilities aren't to be feared. They're to be embraced and to really be accepted into whatever community there is.

Superintendent:
Very, very valuable lesson, especially to learn at this age. No, this is not like any other class.

Jackie:
I will have students come into my class and you say, "Oh, Ms. Sheppick, I just need to talk to you about this life situation." And it makes me feel good that they trust me to get help. But also that my class is teaching them principles that they need to problem solve.

Helping others always helps us learn more about ourselves. And I really see that with my peer tutors. They'll come to me and tell me, this happened. But I thought about when I did this with this kid and I knew I could try that for myself. I'm seeing them apply principles that I'm teaching my students. Our communications lesson, how to communicate with others. One of my teachers came to me and said, "A actually asked me on a date, face to face, not through text". And I was like, hurray! People together. You know, that's awesome.

The the change in students when they leave this room, because I think they realize, "Yes, everyone's got stuff. Those who have severe problems are the happiest. And I think it's kind of a shift in your own attitude when you're in my class because you see if they can be so happy and enjoy life to the fullest.

Superintendent:
Okay. That's pretty quick. Well, it's been a delight talking with you and I'm thrilled to have you here at Copper Hills doing the great work you're doing. Thank you. Stay with us up next.

We'll catch up with Megan Dean,President of the CH Pals club and find out how her labor of ove is impacting lives at Copper Hills.

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Superintendent:
All right. I'm Anthony Godfrey. I'm the Superintendent. Tell me your name.

I'm Alex Mane. I'm with the CH Pals.

Superintendent:
Tell me about CH Pals, Alex.

Alex:
CH Pals is with with kids that have special disability.

Superintendent:
And what do you do?

Alex:
We do activities. We go different places. We have a party after school.

Superintendent:
What party do you have today?

Alex:
We have a Halloween Social Party after school.

Superintendent:
And do you sometimes go to school activities as well?

Alex:
Yeah, we do.

Superintendent:
What do you like about CH Pals?

Alex:
The one thing I like about it is that we get to hang out and talk to our friends.

Superintendent:
And you make a lot of friends in CH Pals?

Alex:
Yes, we do.

Superintendent:
What do you like most about being in high school? IsCH Pals one of those things?

Alex:
Yes. That's one of them. What else do you like about high school? I love high school because we get to go our classes. We do assignments. We get to listen to our teachers.

Superintendent:
What's your favorite class?

Alex:
Choir class.

Superintendent:
Very nice. What are you guys working on right now?

Alex:
We just did a performance on Tuesday and then we just did our worksheet today.

Superintendent:
It sounds like you got a lot of good things going. I see that you are an M and M today.

Alex:
That's right.

Superintendent:
All right. So at the Halloween party, we'll have M and M's for sure now.

Alex:
Yeah.

Superintendent:
And you're red. That is a good flavor.

Alex:
And my favorite color also.

Superintendent:
Oh, that works out very nicely. Are you looking forward to graduation?

Alex:
Yes. I'm looking forward to graduation.

Superintendent:
What are your plans after graduation?

Alex:
I may go to post school. It's called South Valley post school. I can go there first, then go to a college.

Superintendent:
Yeah, great South Valley's an awesome transition to the whatever's next after that.  And then stop by now and then just say hi to Ms. Sheppick, right?

Alex:
Yeah, that's right.

Superintendent:
Okay. Very good. All right. It's great. Talking to you. Go to the party and we'll come down and join you. We're here in the Tech Atrium at Copper Hills High School, where the CH Pals are setting up for the big Halloween Party. Ms. Sheppick will bring her students down shortly for the grand entry. We have all kinds of Halloween theme decorations, and everyone is in costume. It feels very festive, especially in a COVID year.

We're going to start making pumpkins. Megan, you are the President of CH Pals. Tell us a little bit about that.

Megan:
The CH Pals is the club where we take the students with severe disabilities and we involve them into the mainstream student life. We hold socials for them. We take them to a bunch of school events like football games, basketball games. This month, we're having a Special Needs Carnival. Most clubs at the school are going to come up with an activity, just for them. And it's going to be their own Halloween Party. I believe next week, we're having a Halloween Social where we have our club members come and celebrate Halloween with them and we'll have different activities. It's really just a way for them to get involved and make a ton of friends.

Superintendent:
It's really exciting that you're doing this. What got you involved in CH Pals and then Peer Tutoring.

Megan:
So I kind of found this class by accident a little bit. I dropped a class and I was just looking for a new one. So I went to my counselor and just asked him what was up and what I could take. And so he's reading off the list and he said I could do peer tutoring. And I'm like, what's that? So he explained it to me and I went on my first day of school and I fell in love with the kids and just the environment. So I've been doing this since my sophomore year and then my junior year. The end of my sophomore year, I applied to be an officer for CH Pals and I got that. So my junior year I became the Public Relations Officer. And now this year, I'm the President of it.

Superintendent:
What does it mean to you to be a peer tutor and to be involved with CH Pals?

Megan:
Well, honestly, it's just something, a very selfless thing. I've really raised above myself and met some of the most beautiful people on this earth. Just to meet them and become friends with them. It's meant the world to me. I know this isn't about me. It's really about them.

Superintendent:
What would you say to someone who's considering being a peer tutor or being part of CH Pals?

Megan:
I would tell them to 100% go for it because it's the most incredible experience. It's definitely made my high school career that much better. It's been amazing.

Superintendent:
Do you think it's made permanent changes in the way you view other people?

Megan:
Oh, for sure. I think it's helped me to realize that like everybody's beautiful in their own way. And even on the surface, you can't, you don't know they're struggling with something because you can't tell that all of these students have severe disabilities. And I think it was a good reminder that everybody is going through something and it was just a good realization that it's better to be kind to everybody and be friends with everybody. I know a lot of people can be freaked out, getting involved with this severe disabled people, but they're really some of the most beautiful people. You just got to get to know them.

Superintendent:
And the experience of working with students with disabilities has not just changed your outlook towards students with disabilities, but really toward everyone.

Megan:
Yeah. It's just really taught me to the importance of growing connections with everybody, because really, you can be best friends with everybody. If you just learn to love each other for who you are and not what you look like or who you associate yourself with. That was a big lesson for me, that being friends with everybody is possible.

Superintendent:
Well, you're doing great things. You're a great example. And it's really a pleasure to talk with you, Megan.

Thanks for joining us on the Supercast. Remember, education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see how.

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