“Students need to feel comfortable,” said Ridley. “A lot of times, students may listen to a peer versus an adult. These peer mentors can be the role model that the mentee needs to see.”
Ridley is approaching her 10th year with LEAD Cameron and teaches 5th grade social studies and enrichment for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. In addition to teaching, she is also the 5th Grade Level Chair at LEAD Cameron.
“The longer I have been teaching, the more passionate I have become because I see there is a need for students needing someone to not only teach them but also care about their well being outside of the classroom as well,” said Ridley. “In teaching middle school especially, building relationships is key to teaching.”
This emphasis on building relationships is what led Ridley to create a mentoring train between herself, an 8th-grader named Fidel, and a 5th grade student named Isaiah.
“The mentorship between Isaiah and Fidel is about Isaiah seeing a student who looks like him accomplish many things in school,” said Ridley. “Fidel has always been an active participant in class and in sports. He is popular, but he is humble. He has been consistent in his behavior from 5th through 8th grade. He is always willing to help in any situation, which shows a lot of courage and maturity.”
According to Ridley, this partnership began because Isaiah was struggling with behavior, which was believed to stem from his academic struggles. Through this relationship, Isaiah has become more focused and able to show his knowledge of his learning material. Even in the small amounts of time that they spend together, Isaiah’s grades have grown in Ridley’s social studies class.
“[Fidel has taught me] to pay attention to make your work easier,” said Isaiah. “I am more confident to do my work by myself.”
But Isaiah isn’t the only one seeing the benefits of this relationship. “[Isaiah has taught me that] doing my work is important,” said Fidel. “I think it’s important to help younger students because they need to be in the right place when they’re in my place.”
In addition to Fidel and Isaiah’s partnership, Ridley also spends time mentoring Fidel so he can become an even better leader and see his full potential.
“Having an adult mentor gives students a chance to be seen, be provided the chance to open up and share feelings they might not be confident in sharing with a household member, and overall, feel cared about,” said Ridley. “It also gives students an opportunity to build a healthy relationship in which some might not have.”
As for her hopes for these students, Ridley wants Isaiah to see he can succeed in school just like his mentor. For Fidel, she hopes he realizes even when he thinks no one is watching, someone is, so he continues to make good choices and be a leader.