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Peer tutor class offered at FHS

Think back to your high school days. Would you have taken an hour out of your day to tutor mentally-handicapped students in exchange for a one-hour credit?

At Farragut High School, and many other schools in Knox County, this is an option. Students can receive class credit as a peer tutor.

“I had friends who were really involved, so I signed up for the class,” said Danielle Burris, who is enrolled in the advanced peer tutor class at FHS. “Within a couple of days I knew that this was fun and I loved it.”

Although peer tutors enjoy taking a break from their academic load, the class does involve completing tests and writing papers, Burris said.

Peer tutors at FHS spend a one-hour block during their school day sitting with students and helping teachers, said Becky Comer.

She teaches a peer tutor class at FHS.

“It is the absolute heart of our program,” Comer said. “A lot of them [mentally-challenged students] are used to being sheltered, but this really opens up the world for them. Peers really take them under their wing and they do things normal teenagers do.”

Peer tutors spend the first few weeks of class reading text about different disabilities and performing activities that help them understand the students they are working with, Comer said.

Peer tutors are required to organize one outside activity for the class, Comer said. Students taking the advanced class, offered after their first year, must schedule two activities for their class.

Students could choose to organize a party, plan a dinner at a restaurant or create an activity, Burris said.

Despite the papers and tests required, peer tutors enjoy the unique opportunity to work with the students.

“If you come [to class] and you’re not in a good mood you’ll leave here with a smile on your face,” Burris said.

Peer tutors learn how to interact with mentally-handicapped students, as well as how to handle outbursts or seizures, Comer said.

“It’s not for everyone, but those who do certainly have the heart for it,” Comer said. “A lot of our students go into special education; some who never would have considered it.”


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