Eye on ECCS: High School Tutors

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NOTE: Occasionally throughout the school year, we will visit a school across Eastern Carver County Schools. Some weeks the plan may be to stop in multiple classrooms by grade, or by subject. Other weeks it may highlight a certain specialist group. The purpose is to give families and our community a glimpse into the every-day learning environment happening in our buildings. A chance to spotlight the incredible work our teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our students, and to showcase the incredible work our students produce as well. So, keep your Eye on ECCS!

High school students from Chanhassen and Chaska are now in their second semester of tutoring in math and language arts classrooms at Chaska Middle School West, working alongside teachers to support peers.

The first question posed to four of this semester’s tutors was a simple, “why be a tutor?”

Chanhassen senior Grace Root realized first-hand last semester how a teacher scrambles from student to student. How at times it feels like every student has a question for the teacher all at once.

Chaska senior Cami Mendoza-Castrillón, who moved from the country of Columbia to Minnesota in fifth grade, was once a student at Chaska Middle School West. She wanted to give back, and be a resource for other immigrant students.

Chanhassen senior Jacob Humbert has heard often from his mom, a substitute teacher, about the need for extra support for students. How students are catching up after COVID shutdown schools in 2020 and limited in-person instruction in 2021.

Chaska senior Yabi Yidnekachew remembers the struggle she had in her middle school math class. She remembers what it was like to be in their position.

Students helping students learn math and language arts has proven to be a success story thus far at Chaska Middle School West. Eighth-grade math teacher Lani Grafelman contacted the high schools, working with Sally Reed at Chaska and Paige Lepak at Chanhassen to find students interested in helping middle school students for an hour or two each week.

"My kids ask when the high school students are coming back so they can seek out their help. All of my classes are extra excited about learning on the days when the mentors are here,” Grafelman said.

Seventh-grade math teacher Keisha Dokken appreciates the additional one-on-one attention students can receive with an additional helper in the classroom, and the quicker response time for students working in their whiteboard groups.

"The program provides great role models for our learners. West students see if they apply themselves in math today, they can be successful in math in high school just like their mentors -- since some of the high schoolers sat in these very classrooms when they were at West,” sixth grade math teacher Nicole Pelowski said.


Mendoza-Castrillón tutors with Grafelman on Wednesdays, staying after school to help students with the Algebra Homework Club.

“I finished middle school at West. I was still learning English and I remember how difficult it was to ask for help,” Mendoza-Castrillón said. Because of that, she enjoys staying after school to help those that need that extra support. “I want to be a resource for these students.”

Being in a kindergarten classroom at Bluff Creek Elementary as part of her Intro to Education class last semester, Root enjoyed the experience so much, when the idea of being a tutor was brought up by a friend, she joined.

“I enjoy working with people. I enjoy making an impact,” said Root, who is interested in going into health care. Root not only tutors in a math class, but also is one of two students that are in an eighth grade language arts class.

Humbert, who tutors seventh and eighth grade algebra, remembers being a middle school student. When he’s working with students, he is trying to make them feel confident about themselves in their work.

“If they’re confident in their abilities to do middle school math, it could set them up for future success when they get to high school,” Humbert said.

For Yidnekachew, algebra and her did not get along in middle school (and now she loves it). “I was once in their position. I just think being a tutor now is a way I can help students who were like me that are struggling with math,” she said.

Thank you to the high school tutors this semester!

Chaska High School: Cara O’Rourke, Regan O'Rourke, Cami Mendoza-Castrillón, Danica Grafelman, Varun Sridhar, Ethan Schneider, Annaliese Nagassar, Zoe Kushinski, Yabi Yidnekachew

Chanhassen High School: Greta Mahlke, Jacob Humbert, Grace Root, Tessa Burke

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