11/15/09 — Volunteer shares learning tips with GHS students

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Volunteer shares learning tips with GHS students

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 15, 2009 1:50 AM

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Margaret Lee Wilkins, left, works with Goldsboro High School senior Jasmine Lane to develop a good study routine.

When Margaret Lee Wilkins used to drive past Goldsboro High School, she would imagine what it would be like to teach there.

When she learned that her aunt, Barbara Wilkins, was named graduation coach there, however, her phone call was not to volunteer but the typical congratulations one gives for a family member's accomplishment.

Margaret Lee, 25, a graduate of Wayne Christian School and UNC-Wilmington, soon signed on to tutor students in need of additional help.

"It started out I was just going out there to see what (Barbara) was doing," she said. "I just continue to be out there."

Mrs. Wilkins' role as graduation coach, funded through Communities in Schools, is to shore up graduation rates at the school. While the program targets 26 students especially in need of help, its scope has broadened as students learn about the program.

Margaret Lee's effort has also expanded. She contracted with Communities in Schools to lead 20 sessions of an after-school program called "Remembering for the Test." Essentially, she is there to help students learn how to learn, she said.

It centers around "how to retain information, why it's important, just great ways to study," she said. From talking about different learning styles to suggesting ways to take notes and what to highlight, she is "laying the foundation" for them to become better students.

She uses different techniques to convey the message including interaction, questions, discussion and study partners.

And while Halloween recently provided a nice incentive, as one afternoon she offered a bag of candy to reward students for their attitude and effort, it's not all about prizes and pats on the back.

"'I don't want you to do well on a test just for a bag of candy. I don't want you to even do well for the grade,'" she said she told the students. "'I want you to graduate and pursue the things you love, and it's a lot easier when you have a high school diploma.'"

Beyond providing notecards and highlighters, Margaret Lee's passion is about building relationships with those she meets.

"I really want to communicate that I want to honor them," she said. "I don't want to give them more work for a class or make them do something. I want to respect them. I ask them questions about their life, just basic personal consideration."

So far, she said, the experience has been wonderful.

"Working with high school kids is not new to me but working with individual kids is always new because you get to work with different people," she said. "I think if you were to ask me why it has been wonderful, I would say I consider it a privilege to be able to be heard by them."

The students she has met are "so eager," receptive to learn better ways to do something, she said.

The classes are typically small -- an average of eight or nine students attend the hour-long sessions -- allowing her to work closely with each.

On this particular afternoon, she challenged the group to work with their strengths and learning styles.

"Whatever way that helps you the most, that's what you need to do," she told Quantiago Holloman, a senior.

Her methods have been helpful, he said.

"It has changed my studying, improved my grades," he said. "She told us, 'Don't use too much information, use the main details, point out the main topics.'"

Quantiago, who also plays football at the school, said his favorite subject is English. He aspires to go to college, majoring in business administration. The tutoring has helped him feel like a better student, he said.

The same is true for Auntre Thigpen, also a senior, who has been to every one of the after-school sessions.

"She's teaching us how to remember things for the test, how to study, study techniques like if you're a visual learner or auditory," he said. "She has us highlighting things -- not to highlight too much, just the main things that we should know."

The class has changed the way he does homework and approaches education, he said.

"I feel more confidence when I take tests now because I know my style of learning. I'm a visual learner. I like looking at words, reading them," he said.

As the 20-session tutoring program wraps up, it will be evaluated as to whether a continuation is needed.

In the meantime, Marga-ret Lee is already enthusiastic about its contribution.

"I think seeing them incorporate tools that give them confidence in their academics and also really helping improve their grades and the possibility of graduation" are just a few of the payoffs, she said. "But I think the thing I get most excited about is the relationship I get to form with these kids.

"I would hope for the continuation of the study skills, that they would apply that and that it would be really useful, both in the classroom when they do the work and at home and when they take tests."