AmeriCorps Members Help Pave PATHS of Success for all Learners

Since the beginning of the school year, Biome learners in K-3 have made great strides in both academic and behavior management skills thanks to the extra classroom support provided by a team of seven extraordinary AmeriCorps members. From providing one-on-one tutoring to small group instruction, AmeriCorps teaching assistants embrace the Biome’s commitment to helping every learner achieve his or her potential.

Having AmeriCorps members in classrooms is the result of The Biome School having been chosen last summer to receive a Federal AmeriCorps grant award for the 2017-2018 school year from the Missouri Community Service Commission. In addition to providing daily academic support for the Biome’s STEAM curriculum, AmeriCorps members also participate in PATHS programming, which helps support learner’s social-emotional skills such as self-control, self-esteem and problem-solving.

The positive impact of this additional funding happens every day at The Biome School. For example, one of the AmeriCorps teaching assistants, Ivette Lozano, grew up in California in a low-income environment herself. She understands first-hand the value of early intervention for learners who may be struggling either academically or emotionally. “Just knowing that someone cares and is available to give a learner the extra time and attention he or she needs directly impacts learning success,” said Ivette. “It not only enhances a learner’s self-confidence, it can inspire them to want to achieve more.”

Ivette works primarily with learners in kindergarten and first grade at The Biome. On a typical day, while the classroom teacher may be leading a general writing lesson, Ivette may be working separately with a small group of four learners, helping them improve their reading comprehension or understand how to put their thoughts in writing and use proper sentence structure. Another day, she may work one-on-one with a learner on how to use communication skills to better manage social interactions. “When I hear a learner apologize for accidentally bumping into a classmate, I know I’ve had an impact that may last a lifetime,” said Ivette. She added that joining AmeriCorps at The Biome has inspired her to become a kindergarten teacher instead of an upper elementary teacher.

For kindergarten teacher Kristin Williams, having an AmeriCorps member in the classroom benefits everyone. “At the beginning of the school year, I walked into a classroom of 16 very lively and enthusiastic five- and six-year-olds, including some children who had never attended a preschool and had no experience in a classroom setting. With Ivette’s help, we were able to help our young learners make a faster adjustment by giving them the one-on-one attention they need at that age,” said Kristin.

Today, from reading site words to doing math problems independently, every learner in Kristin’s kindergarten is making tremendous progress. “It is gratifying to see how every day our learners are becoming more independent and self-motivated,” said Kristin, who added that her goal is to have every kindergartner in her classroom reading and doing math at first-grade level by the end of the school year.

Although Kristin and Ivette did not know each other prior to the first day of school last August, they discovered that they not only have similar teaching styles, backgrounds and experiences, they are both former cheerleaders. “We have a good time coming up with cheers and chants that we use as teaching tools to make learning fun and interesting,” said Kristin. “We want the positive experience our learners have in kindergarten to inspire them to achieve success throughout their entire academic future.”

The impact of the AmeriCorps grant cannot be understated. As Bill Kent, The Biome’s founder and CEO, said, “The importance of this additional funding ensures that we are able to provide the rigorous, experiential, and holistic education we are committed to providing for every learner who comes through our doors.”