Teacher Inspires Unique Program

Voices of students from all grade levels collaborating are heard from every table in the room. Each of these tables is home to insightful discussions about historic events and leaders. But more importantly, every table is home to a collaborative, hands-on learning environment–one that was inspired by social studies teacher Christa Wemmer. This is the World Studies support class, one of many classes created to aid underclassmen in high school to help prepare them for their future.
Wemmer began her nine-year career at the school through the development of the Opportunity Program, which helps sophomores falling behind to catch up on credits. Working closely with Assistant Principals Cristy Dawson and Perla Pasallo, Wemmer had the goal of keeping students from being transferred to alternative schools such as Terra Bella and Alta Vista.
Social studies teacher Christa Wemmer (center), Teacher of the Year, works with sophomores Yulissa Arreola, Kori Robinson-Griffin, Andrea Valencia and Gerry Primitivo. Wemmer believes that her award shows the collaborative success of the Opportunity Program.
“My passion is working with students who aren’t connected with school and trying to get them to be motivated,” Wemmer said.
In addition, it is now known as the World Studies Support Program. Each class is a double period, leading students to take fewer electives. Wemmer believes that helping younger students will cultivate a love for learning at an earlier age and promote a better work ethic.
“Why wait until 10th grade to help kids?” Wemmer said. “Why not help them from the beginning?”
Wemmer’s initiative manifested into a team of teachers banding together and starting support programs in their respective departments. Math teachers Laraine Ignacio and Betty Yamasaki help with math. English teachers Jonathan Kwan, Carrie Abel and Survey teachers help with English. Lastly, Wemmer and social studies teacher Anne Battle lead World Studies.
“We all meet once a week, we all do these double periods, we all stay after school and do the homework club,” Wemmer said. “Everyone is putting in volunteer work, so it’s a big group that’s working, and it’s shared.”
Along with teachers, peer tutors help with this teaching model’s success. By involving upperclassmen in the learning process of younger students, this program helps younger kids be stimulated to learn and enjoy it by seeing their tutors’ interest in the subject material.
Sophomore Kori Robinson believes World Studies Support provides students with a new way of learning.
“The activities and how Ms. Wemmer did things, it wasn’t just regular boring school,” Kori said. “It made you want to get better in what you’re doing, and want to learn.”
Wemmer and the peer tutors pushed and engaged students in learning. The peer tutors and Wemmer stressed the importance of both effort and grades in school by keeping a close watch on students’ performance.
“In a way, sometimes they made it harder for us by pushing us to do better, but overall [peer tutors] were a huge help because they made sure we were on top of our stuff by keeping our grades on check and helping us understand the history more,” sophomore Jose Cruz said.
For her efforts in creating such a unique program, Wemmer was voted Teacher of the Year in June by the staff and administration. But Wemmer believes this award doesn’t only reflect her own achievement, but rather the achievement of everyone who participated in the program.
“It’s the best thing that could happen in my teaching career, but I feel it’s very shared because the work that’s being honored by the staff is the work that the whole group is doing,” Wemmer said.
Wemmer greatly values the team aspect of the program and says that student work reflects the interest and efforts of the teachers and tutors. One of the biggest rewards was seeing the love for history in her students.
“Ms. Dawson came in and asked the kids how many of them wanted to major in history in college,” Wemmer said. “All of their hands went up, and for Ms. Battle and I, that was the biggest reward.”