Mitchell freshman Jordan Platt sets sights on a future as an educator in Teens As Teachers program

·5 min read

May 26—MITCHELL — Some high school students can't wait to get out of the classroom as soon as class is over.

But others, like Jordan Platt, who is wrapping up his freshman year at Mitchell High School, actually look to spend more time in the classroom. He did that this past school year, when he took up a position at the head of the classroom at L.B. Williams Elementary School as part of the Teens As Teachers program.

"I just really like working with kids," Platt said. "My mom was a teacher and I've always been in the classroom helping teachers organize their classrooms or grading papers. I've just always liked the classroom."

The South Dakota Teens As Teachers program is the only program of its kind, according to a program summary from the South Dakota Youth Foundation, through which the program is administered. It provides service-oriented, community-based learning experiences for teenagers while benefiting those they teach.

It provides opportunities for older youth to be teachers and mentors to younger students in the classroom and after school settings while earning a scholarship for post-secondary education. Platt said he got started in the program after his adviser Suzanne Skinner introduced him to it after he expressed his interest in education.

"I did some more research and found that it gave me the opportunity to get into the classroom, create lesson plans and to just get the feel of being a teacher and talking in front of kids," Platt said.

As part of the program, Platt took on a small teaching role in a third-grade class at L.B. Williams Elementary School. He focused his lesson on positivity and the beneficial influence a positive attitude can have on classmates, teachers and people outside the school environment.

His lessons were from the Healthy YOUth curriculum. Students associated with the program attended training last fall in curriculum lessons, lesson planning and working with elementary students. Platt taught elementary students skills and how to develop habits for a healthy lifestyle.

"It was really fun. They were very happy and excited to learn a new subject. I was talking about positivity and how they can include it in their everyday lives. I was also telling them how they can influence other people's positivity," Platt said. "It improves their mental health and positivity overall and includes their physical health and how they can influence the lives of others. It shows that they can interact with other students and shows they can have relationships with people their age or older and younger adults."

Platt said the full-time teacher for that class, Jane Dahme, gave constructive criticism as feedback, which allowed him to learn from his own experience teaching and adjust his style and approach through the program.

"It was wonderful experience to have Jordan in our classroom. He taught some of our weather standards and brought many hands-on, interesting, fun lessons and activities to do with the students. He was so kind and patient with the kids! They loved him," Dahme said in an email. "It provided Jordan with a wonderful opportunity. It's so important if someone is interested in teaching to get them into the classroom early and to let them experience what it's like to be a teacher to see whether it is truly something that they want to do for a career choice."

The program is designed to provide students opportunities in learning in-depth information about a specific topic, develop skill sets for classroom and out-of-school teaching, understand youth development principles for various age levels and learn appropriate teaching approaches for multicultural students, among others.

Skinner said Platt is blazing new trails as the first student at Mitchell High School to take part in the program, and that he very much fits the mold of a teacher with his talents of organization and communication with younger students.

"Jordan is the first student from Mitchell to participate in this program. He's willing to commit the time and energy it took to not only teach the lesson but to complete a portfolio and do all the postings and all the other work that goes with it to earn that scholarship," Skinner said.

His work earned him a $250 scholarship for his efforts, and he will have the chance to earn more scholarships as he progresses through the program in his high school years, something he said he is keen to do. He is already considering colleges he might attend if he continues his pursuit of a teaching career.

"(Teens As Teachers) reinforced my thinking of becoming a teacher and helped me decide that it's the career path I might choose," Platt said.

Carol Birgen, program leader for the South Dakota Youth Foundation, said students like Platt can make a special connection with elementary students, who see their older counterparts as older peers and can often connect easily with them and their lessons.

"Elementary students see Teens As Teachers as role models and mentors. Teens speak the right language, making education more effective," Birger said in a statement.

And just because the school year is ending doesn't mean Platt is planning to slow down. He said his summer plans include working as a camp counselor at one of his church camps, which will give him another chance to work on his leadership and communication skills with younger students.

But when the new school year starts in the fall, his thoughts will turn back to taking that leadership role at the head of the classroom. He expects he will continue to work with the Teens As Teachers program throughout his high school career, and he hopes other students will consider taking part as well.

"Even if they're not thinking about going to elementary education or being a teacher, it still provides great leadership," Platt said.