MV’s mentorship/tutoring program makes a difference


GREENVILLE — Empowering Darke County Youth’s (EDCY) mission to get kids the help they need is getting a tremendous boost at Mississinawa Valley. The EDCY board heard a presentation from Luke McKeeth on the program he has been able to spearhead to help children in kindergarten through fourth grade get the help they need. In addition to teaching Spanish, McKeeth and for the past three years has run the leadership program at the elementary.

His goal was to expand peer interaction in their mentoring program and make into something that goes across the entire district. “At the beginning of the year, this year, we kind of threw this together,” said McKeeth. “Closing in on the end of the first quarter and we have 25 students that are actively serving as tutors. I was expecting to get, maybe, five or six involved.”

He explained some of the students are involved once a week and other are involved everyday, twice a day. It’s not just high school students that have an interest in helping the elementary age students. McKeeth said 25 percent of the tutors come from the junior high. “They have really stepped up.” However, there may be a reason why students are interested in helping. One student explained, “It’s more interesting to read with a fourth grader than it is to sit in study hall.”

He said, “The bottom line is they are reading with fourth graders and having a great time doing it.”

There is proof that the mentorship program is working at Mississinawa Valley. Last year, when they had a student work with a fourth grader, that student was able to move up three levels within his testing in comprehension over the course of one quarter.

Thus far, he has over 75 hours of documented tutoring time. He pointed out there was an asterisks next to the total. McKeeth smiled when he said, “I have a couple of students that turn in their hours about as effectively as they turn in their homework. So I have to chase a few down.” He believes the number is closer to 85 hours of time.

The tutoring is spread across 18 different classrooms in all of the grade levels in the elementary. Over 100 students have been assisted in the process with direct contact. It could be reading, playing math games or helping the student with an assignment they didn’t understand.

McKeeth admitted they put this together “on the fly” and continue to work with the elementary teachers to determine what works best. One of the areas that continues to be tweaked is consistency. There are times when a teacher expects a certain student to help, but that student may have been absent or decided they needed to do their homework in study hall. Sometimes that message didn’t get relayed to the elementary teacher.

Not only does the mentorship/tutoring program help the younger students, it also helps the older students learn if this could be a possible career. He had one student come back and asked, “Mr. McKeeth, do I have to keep doing this? You know what I learned? I don’t like fourth graders.” He has also mentors come back and exclaim “I love these kids. I love what I’m doing.”

While the goal is to give help to the elementary students, McKeeth is finding that some of his tutors are also getting the help they need. “I’ve got several students who are at-risk students on the high school end. They don’t like school. School is a terrible place as far as they are concerned. It forces them to do boring things that have no interest or no connection to real life. For some of them, this has been the reason they turn in their homework. They have to pass their classes to be able to tutor.” He said it is having a secondary effect in the high school.

How will he know if this is working? “I’m expecting to see a noticeable game. It may be one or two points.” However, the data may be more abstract because there is no way to determine who worked with which student and for how long. McKeeth shared that one teacher is running an intervention class and said “This has been a godsend to have another warm body that is older than the students at the beginning of the day.” Having one or two students busy working on things they need to work on allows the teacher to work with other students.

Because of COVID, Mississinawa Valley is seeing kindergartners come into the school much further behind in developmental senses, such as language acquisition. A teacher told him that having a student that is able to step out and sit with a high school student to work on things has been amazing.

Although they are still learning how to best use the program, McKeeth said the feedback they have received from doing this program over the summer has incredible from both parents, students and teachers. The positive impact it made then is why McKeeth wanted to carry it over into the new school year.

EDCY appreciates the work Mississinawa Valley is doing and is currently discussing ways to offer its support of the program.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected]

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