A $13,000 grant will be used to train “teachers as advisors” at Gainesville High School.
The PerkinsPlus grant, funded by the Georgia Department of Education, was recently awarded to the school for the Teachers as Advisors program, which will further train homeroom teachers to also serve as a sort of counselor to their students.
“We plan to bring some teachers in this summer, a team of teachers, and they will receive a stipend (for the training),” said Gainesville High principal LaCrisia Larkin. She said that some of the funds would also be used for bringing in consultants, and providing for training materials.
The importance of having teachers act in the advising role as well is to provide students another point of contact for if and when they need extra support.
“Also, as a homeroom adviser, you have another individual who is checking their grades, encouraging them to do well all along through the process,” Larkin added. “You have an individual who is staying with the students, solidly, at least three years.”
GHS lead counselor Tracey Wilson agreed.
“It’s someone else to help the student with the four-year graduation plan, someone who can monitor their academic achievement,” Wilson said. The idea is that a student may be more comfortable asking for, and receiving, advice from a person they see on a daily basis.
This serves toward the program’s goal of informing students of opportunities available following high school graduation. Gainesville school leaders are hopeful that this not only encourages better immediate academic growth, but also continued success into post-secondary education.
There are around 25 students per teacher in the homeroom, Larkin said. Wilson explained that each counselor oversees 400-500 students. She said that with that kind of caseload, counselors are unable to always provide one-on-one time that may be necessary.
Daily homeroom periods last around 10 minutes. Advisement periods will be held on a regular basis, and will stretch to 30 to 45 minutes to accommodate all students.
Both Larkin and Wilson said that the training and support is especially important for the teachers, who are already stretched with the regular responsibilities.
“You have some who would appreciate more training, and that’s where we’re going to focus this year,” Larkin said. “But, like with everything else, they are busy so we want to make sure they are comfortable with the material.”
Wilson said that, in many ways, it’s a natural extension for the teacher to be a point of contact for the student, as the teacher is who the student interacts with on a daily basis.
“They don’t have to be a counselor to them,” Wilson said. “They’re just that extra person, that extra point of contact.”
She said that if there’s something teachers are uncomfortable with, or are unsure about, they know to refer the student to a counselor.
The Gainesville school board heard the information about the training program, and the PerkinsPlus grant, at its Friday retreat.
“This is big for this year,” said board chairwoman Maria Calkins. “It’s a lot of moving forward in a positive direction.”