By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The last time Garrett Hittner and Hayden Gosling stepped into classrooms at Clear Lake Elementary School, everything – the rooms, the books, the desks – seemed a lot bigger. Probably because they were fifth graders at the time.
“Everything about the school seems to have changed,” Gosling said.
Hittner and Gosling, now seniors at McNary High School, are part of a new Read Victorious program designed, in part, by McNary football coach Isaac Parker. Perry Groves, Kyle Torres and Tanner Walker are also taking part in the program.
They leave campus three days a week and travel to Clear Lake to mentor second graders at the school.
“I take them to the library and have them pick out a book. Sometimes I read it to them, sometimes they read to me,” said Hittner, who works with the students of his former teacher Karla McFadden.
Gosling’s task on Tuesday, May 20, was working with a group of four students on dictation and writing sentences with all the correct punctuation.
“They like to get noisy, but they’re really good kids, they do the work correctly and they’re really fun to be around,” Gosling said.
Hittner tries to put himself in his students’ shoes when they get excited to see him.
“If I was in second grade and had older kids coming in to work with me, I would be pretty excited, too,” he said.
Sometimes the reading support goes beyond simple pronunciation. While working with two readers Hittner tried to get his students thinking about information conveyed in pictures.
On occasion, the excitement comes out as questions about a world bigger than the one the younger students know. Gosling fields more than a few questions about girls.
“They ask me all the time whether I have a girlfriend. They are really curious about it. One of my boys asks me every week if he is wearing pants. I’m not sure what that’s about,” he said.
The students are a welcome addition to the school, said teacher Melinda Voy.
“The students go to the football, basketball and baseball games and have dreams of one day playing for McNary. Imagine their excitement when some of the football team that they so admired came in to help them become more dedicated readers,” Voy said. “The Read Victorious boys talk with our students about reading strategies, but also how important it is to have good attendance, work hard and do your best. The program has taught my students that athletes don’t just play hard, they have to work hard academically as well.”
McFadden said the room lights up when she announces their student mentors have arrived.
“After initially meeting with (the MHS students) to explain our expectations and what were some possible strategies they could use with each book, they just took off. They independently go to the book room and select the books they want for their groups, and then determine what reading foundations and comprehension strategies they want to use for that book,” McFadden said.
She added the only slight disappointment is that none of the current mentors have plans to be teachers.
“They have what it takes to be great,” McFadden said.
Parker is hoping the program finds its legs and expands to athletes on other teams.
Plans are already in the works to have McNary students in at Keizer, Weddle and Gubser elementary schools next fall.
“I’m not thinking about being a teacher, but it’s nice to get out in the community and give back for the way they’ve supported us over the years,” Gosling said.