LINCOLN -- Lincoln Middle School's mentoring program, which started in 2018, helped students, teachers and families stay connected when online learning took the stage in March because of the covid-19 crisis, according to Principal Michele Price.
"The mentor-student relationship has continued throughout virtual school," Price said. "They have continued it remotely throughout this whole quarter."
Both Lincoln Middle School and Lincoln High School started a new curriculum two years ago called Summit Learning personalizing learning for each student. The platform has three components: mentoring, cognitive skills and habits of success.
"The mentoring piece of Summit Learning has been the biggest piece of the curriculum we could have had during this time," Price said. "When the kids turned in their computers at the end of the year, they were smiling, laughing, telling us they missed us. I think that's because we've kept up those relationships."
Price said she believes one reason online school was successful for Lincoln Middle School is because teachers, students and parents had developed relationships through the mentoring program.
"Teachers already had the trust of the families and students to basically invite them into their homes through virtual learning," Price said.
Each mentor is assigned 20 students at the beginning of the year, with the goal to get to know the students and their families over the course of year. It's easier, Price said, to learn about one student "inside and out" and also develop a relationship with the family.
Students attended classes four days a week, with the fifth day reserved for mentors to meet with their student groups.
During that day, each mentor would meet one-on-one with their students. Generally, students set a goal for the week, talk about academic needs or goals and discuss ways they need support.
"What makes it work is that mentors meet with their students one day a week," Price said. "You learn your group and what makes them tick."
Price said teachers also have seen the kids reaching out to help each other in the mentoring groups. The groups are made up of students from the same grade.
Topics within the groups include lifelong skills, such as improving self direction, stress management and resilience. This is to help students see how they use these skills the rest of their lives, Price said.
The conversations on lifelong skills have especially been appropriate during the pandemic.
"Based on the current situation we're in, this is real life and I think they can see the true application of what we've been trying to teach them," Price said.
Price has served as a mentor both years.
"It's been amazing," she said. "I wouldn't trade it for the world."
Price said being a mentor has allowed her to connect with teachers and reconnect with students.
Sarahi Hernandez, who just finished eighth grade, was in Price's mentoring group this year and admits she wasn't too sure at first about having the school principal as her mentor.
Hernandez said she remembers thinking, "This is going to be so awkward."
However, Hernandez said she found Price to be a "really nice person," understanding and funny.
"She can relate to a lot of things," Hernandez said.
Having a mentor was helpful with assignments and staying on target, Hernandez said. The program also gave her the opportunity to get to know other students in her mentoring group, she said.
During the last nine weeks of school, Hernandez said her main contact with Price was through email and the Zoom app.
Overall, Hernandez said she felt like she made a new friend through the school's mentoring program.
"It felt nice having someone be there for me. I'm very glad she was my mentor. I could talk to her about things, almost like a counselor."
After going through the mentoring experience, Hernandez said she now believes she would be able to mentor someone in the future.