“My kids believe that they can accomplish anything and be anyone,” says Altimira Middle School Principal Will Deeths. “At the ages of 11 to 13, they have not closed any door to their future.”

Walking the Altimira campus you will see the diversity of the students who gather together to learn. The students come from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, they represent many different ethnicities, they are at different stages in maturity, but they all share one thing in common: They crave positive adult interactions that will help lead them toward achieving their own personal success.

After 10 years of success at Sonoma Valley High School, the Teacher Support Network was asked to launch a pilot program at Altimira Middle School. The program launched using just three classrooms and having six community volunteers, but as modest as it was in scope, the impact on campus was immediately recognizable and positive – the students wanted volunteers in their classrooms. On the first day, the kids were slightly suspicious of why they were there; by our third and fourth visit, the kids were clamoring to be paired with them during math games or break-out reading sessions.

One teacher’s experience with a particularly struggling student was so inspiring that she was prompted to email the entire faculty to share the unique transformation of this student due to his interaction with his TSN volunteer. “For the first time this year, he came back to class excited to learn, he asked to read again and he wanted to share the story of ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ with his class.”

The TSN volunteers allow teachers to reach all the students in their classroom, from the high-achieving students to the students who are struggling in all subjects. Having the ability to work in small groups or one-on-one is a powerful, non-threatening, yet challenging tool.

TSN was originally formed with the teacher in mind, but it became immediately clear that there was a positive impact on the students.

“As we enter into the final stretch of the school year, we look at what works and what doesn’t,” Deeths said. “TSN makes a difference, and we want to see the program grow beyond two teachers and two classrooms in 2014-15. Because middle school students are incredibly receptive to adult help and will gravitate towards adult figures throughout their three years in middle school, we hope to see the number of volunteers that SVHS boasts, matched at Altimira.”

The Teacher Support Network is funded through the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation through the generous support of our community. Opportunities to volunteer are open in all areas of study, including language arts, math, science, Spanish, art, gardening and music. If you are interested in becoming involved at Altimira or Sonoma Valley High School as a TSN volunteer, please contact me at sallie@svgreatschools.org or 280-1570.