Rockway Middle School’s Peers as Partners in Learning (PPL) Program

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The Peers as Partners in Learning (PPL) program at Rockway Middle School in Miami, Florida, is an elective course designed to provide peer support for students with disabilities.

Madly Ambroise, PPL Coordinator at Rockway, has shared the following links to their newsletters with information about how the program promotes a culture of inclusion and provides reciprocal academic, social, and interpersonal benefits to students with and without disabilities at Rockway.

The Inclusive Schools Network appreciates the many educators, families, and community members who share their Inclusion in Action success stories with us.

What are some specific examples of how your school/organization has implemented inclusive practices in the workplace or community?

Rockway Middle School promotes a safe environment for all stakeholders including students, families, communities, and staff. All students are welcome at our school and participate in all activities planned, which include morning announcements, Brown and Gold Day, SPOT success, Agents of Change, Leaders of Change, Fly around the Track, Spirit Week, dances, field trips, Band, Culinary Arts, Drama, and Yearbook just to name a few. Our school community embraces students of all abilities and celebrates various cultures. We promote equity, which is about fairness – making sure all students get access to the same opportunities. Our teachers see the disABILITY in every human being and ensure that students work cooperatively for everyone’s success.

At Rockway, our administration and staff are committed and embrace change. Throughout the years many changes have occurred and will continue to occur among our student population. Class profiles can be different from year to year, the materials used in the classroom change, administration and policies change, but great teachers know this and anticipate these changes and plan for how it will impact their students. During the pandemic was extremely difficult; our teachers were very courageous about trying new things and made adjustments along the way to find effective ways of teaching. These changes have given us at Rockway the opportunity to perform our roles even better and grow in our profession.

All our teachers are truly committed to the students, parents, and community of our school. This is evident by the average number of years of service, 12-15 years, the teachers at Rockway have at the same location. These teachers have established a deep connection with many students and across generations. We are dedicated to providing each student with the best possible environment and tools for learning. We work with parents to understand what challenges their children may have in regard to learning and what approaches might work best for them individually. We share instructional support and engage each other for input on how to structure our lesson plans and teaching style to be the best educators.

We collaborate on a weekly basis with each other at all levels within the school system to create a quality teaching environment. We plan, organize and provide instructional support and strategies to improve classroom instruction in the resource, self-contained and inclusion classes for students with varying exceptionalities. Each and every school day brings new students, new parents, new colleagues, and new challenges. Opportunities are endless as an educator, it is an on-going growth process.

Describe the positive outcomes of your inclusion initiatives

Rockway Middle School is one of the first middle schools in the district which started the Peers as Partners program. This elective course is designed to provide peer support for students with disabilities. The program provides reciprocal academic, social, and interpersonal benefits to students with and without disabilities, in an inclusive setting. Our peer students identify themselves as the Falcons Inclusion Team or the FIT crew. They participate and promote several activities around campus such as: Disabilities Awareness, Autism Acceptance,

Celebrities with Disabilities and Recruitment. This program was introduced at Rockway as an elective class in 2021. We are still a “Work In Progress”.

Benefits to teachers and staff: Teachers see improvements from the students being serviced, it allows them to have more time to complete other objectives, such as plan and focus on other students who may need assistance. Additionally, teachers shared that they do not need as much support from them when the peer is in the class. The classes that the FIT crew students are assigned to will most likely be a class that they are enrolled and/or experienced in.

Therefore, the FIT’s students can assist the teachers while also servicing their peers.

Benefits to students: Students with and without disabilities benefit from peer supports. Based on FIT crew and peer students’ interviews, our students indicated that they developed more patience towards peers, improved their organizational skills, developed a positive relationship with peers, developed more empathy and acceptance towards their peers, improved their academic and behavior grades, appreciate helping others, made a positive impact, and provided positive encouragement.

Anything else you’d like to share about your inclusive practices?

Rockway faculty and staff share laughter, tears, jokes, sincerity and the unexpected with our students. This keeps us on our toes, being able to adjust in a moment’s notice. We provide acceptance and hugs , show forgiveness, give second chances, and show how to be a role model. All students have a go to person when they feel there is no place to go, this helps validate their unique individual struggles. Rockway staff are also students fulfilling a life journey. Many of our teachers are former alumni, including our Principal.

We are all passionate about teaching and learning, as leaders and teachers, we are always practicing our art and learning how to improve our techniques. We take the time to listen and collaborate with our students for opportunities to teach and grow. One student’s question can drive an entire lesson plan from which all students will benefit. We are not looking for short answers, instead, we look for explanations and present several concepts and perspectives to our students. At Rockway we are team players, we work with each other and learn different teaching styles, we are open to feedback and suggestions to improve our craft, especially when it comes to helping our inclusion students.

Links to Newsletters:
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 5

Do you have an Inclusion in Action Story to share? We’d love to read about it and share it with others.

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