Going from ‘I Can’t’ to ‘I Can’ – The Lach Peer Master Program is the first certified prison strengthening program in the nation.

September 8, 2021

By Rachel Frederick

Office of Communications

Lauren Zavrel (Left), Leach Corrections teacher, teaches inmates in a classroom designed to certify detained students as peers’ guardians. (Rachel Frederick, Office of Communications)

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YACOLT – Stephen Echenthof shares his experience of teaching a student who had an algebraic fall. The student sat down at the table and became upset. No matter how many times he read the problem, he could not find it.

So Echintoff encouraged the student to take a different approach – go to the whiteboard and talk about the problem. What happened next was like magic.

Ekentoff said, “Every time he takes a step, he says, ‘Bam!’ ”He was going. “We all learn in different styles and combinations. When you teach someone, you need to think about how that person chooses to learn. If you don’t teach them the way you do, they will make a difference. ”

Eichentopf’s student was primarily an art student — someone who drew information with hand gestures and movements.

This reinforcement program is available in all parts of the United States, just like any other. Except it’s a prison.

Eichentopf is one of about half a dozen students in the Larch Correctional Education Program. Participants can obtain a certificate from the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA). CRLA is an international standard of peer education in higher education.

The curriculum teaches how to teach prisoners in prison. A.D. Since its inception in 2019, Larch has made 21 detained students a certified guardian. This program is the only prison in the country.

How it started

About five years ago, Lauren Zavrell, a teacher at Lacher, proposed a peer education program. At any given time, Zavrel will have up to 23 students working on different GED projects at their own pace and at different skill levels. Teaching one lesson at a time for a wide range of needs was not effective or student-centered.

He received help from a prisoner named Chris. Chris Prison was a class assistant, who at the time was distributing copies and materials to students. Chris also became a mathematician. So Zavrel decided to allow Zavrel to form a separate study group with math students to focus on the needs of other students. In fact, Chris became an informal tutor.

After setting up a study group led by Chris Prisoner, Zavrel said GED graduates have increased. And by the end of the quarter, many imprisoned students were looking for peer tutors to help with their assignments. Zavrel found out about his interest and plans to start an official peer education program.

“I realized that this was not just a Chris thing, it was an example of peer pressure that needed attention and confirmation,” said Zavrel.

Zavrel looked at the certificates and found CRLA. Since 1989, more than 1,000 college tutoring programs around the world have received certificates from the CRLA International Teacher Training Program. However, he did not receive any correctional programs at all. Zavrel decided to write a correctional education curriculum to obtain a certificate from CRLA.

Zavrel enlisted the help of four inmates who were teaching students like Chris to write the curriculum.

One of the students was Tim Tipton, a former prisoner. The course you attend requires a total of regular training hours. They must complete a specific curriculum and take a test to obtain a certificate.

Tipton was the first tutor in Lacher to receive CRLA certification. In the nine months leading up to his release, Tipton taught about 120 inmates.

Prisons have special reinforcement tests

Tipton says knowing a student’s preferred learning style is just one of the things educators need to learn. Prisons, by nature, offer reinforcement tests unlike other classrooms.

For example, being a tutor may have the potential to create a hierarchy.

You meet people who have been convicted of a crime in a prison area, so you walk around the area in a different way. There is a tip. You may live with the people you teach, you are equal there, but in class, there may be a power struggle.

Peer tutors may be placed in a situation where the student is trying to bribe him to get more class. Conflicts of interest may arise if the tutor lives in the same room or living room with the person they are teaching.

The lesson helped Tepton and Jawarre create a list of what teachers can do in cases of misconduct.

Reinforcement benefits

Participants reported that the positive impact on inmate students was far greater than the minor risks.

Another benefit of peer reinforcement in a prison environment is creating an environment of trust. Tiptton says that when a student gets help, it can sometimes be more effective than getting help from a teacher.

“Most teachers are highly qualified, but they can be seen as a position of authority in a prison,” says Tiptton. “A struggling student does not have to ask for help if he has problems with confidence, or they are ashamed. But they can be attracted to prisoners because they have a common understanding of what it looks like in that prison, who wears the same clothes and speaks the same language as them.

Expanding educational opportunities for teachers

Imprisoned guardians have also taken the lead in expanding educational opportunities.

Students in the program will partner with the Prisons Sustainability (SPP) in the Prisoner Project to start a garden on Lor and provide credits for students in the High School Plus, HS + program.

SPP is a partnership between the Department of Corrections and Everigrin State College. Provides opportunities for inmates to lead science and environmental sustainability programs in correctional facilities. SPP has programs in all 12 Washington prisons.

HS + is a high school credit recovery program that allows students to earn diplomas using high school credit and experience in DOC work programs.

Most DOC facilities have gardens for inmates. Vegetable production is provided to local food banks to alleviate food insecurity in communities. Some of the produce includes food for inmates.

The facility will have the opportunity to support this partnership as well as the macrology curriculum to complement the current horticultural education curriculum.

Larch is also looking to start a partnership with JSTOR, a digital library that has millions of academic journals, books, and scholarly works. The partnership provides a convenient offline database that allows students to do research for classroom activities without the use of the Internet. Detained students have limited access to institutional libraries and computer labs, and for security reasons students do not have access to public Internet. Because inmates do not have access to an online library, professors publish copies of research materials for students. The partnership creates a pilot program and tutors teach students how to use the database.

Impact on students

Many students also say that they have a college degree as a direct result of being teachers.

Echintoff says that he wanted to be a better student. He says that being a tutor opens the door to learning to share with the world. Even when the world seems to be at a standstill.

For example, the CVD-19 epidemic has led to the cancellation of individual education. A.D. In the spring of 2020. Teachers were allowed in prison, but their inability to teach in person made social grouping learning settings impossible and assignments difficult. .

Teachers collected homework packages. Eichentopf coordinates with other teachers to pick up packages, deliver them to students in their homes, and return completed packages to their teachers. The student educators helped the students submit their questions through J-Pay kiosks and ensured that they received the appropriate faculty answers. J-kiosks electronic tablet devices that allow inmates to send emails and other documents to family and friends as well as teachers.

“Let’s go down. We’ll take the completed package to the teacher’s office, pick up the new package and give it to the local correctional officer, and they’ll distribute it to make sure everyone gets their homework,” Eintoff said.

Through his efforts, he helped two students graduate from high school with a bachelor’s degree.

The most rewarding part, he said, was when students understood a concept they had never done before.

From the hatred and struggle of my classmates to success, where they really see their progress and say ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’, that change is incredible.

A.D. Tipton, who was released in June 2019, says his education changed his life. First, he is not ashamed to talk about what he did in prison. Drug use and vehicle abuse.

“I have worked in the service industry before and will continue to do so until I am promoted and fired. But now I have these good things in my life.

Tiptton is now a student at Clark College and has worked as a peer counselor in the College’s Office of Diversity, Justice and Inclusion. Tipton plans to transfer to the Washington State University campus in Vancouver this fall. After graduation, he wants to get a job in the computer programming industry. He says he owes a debt of gratitude for his success.

He said that watching Lich’s teaching program and seeing his peers change for the better motivated him to change his life for the better.

“When I see him go from self-esteem, to thinking that they are stupid, then they break off that confidence, and then they start thinking that maybe I can do that,” he said. “I’ve seen big, grown-up dumb people who don’t want to meet on the dark street graduate and break and cry. To see someone go from one thing to another, I will never forget that experience, and I can’t believe how fast I did it myself.

Female Primozich hopes for the same kind of success. He is a tutor-trainer and, like other teachers, seeing others learn has motivated him to use education to keep him from going back to prison.

A.D. He plans to get out of prison in 2022 and go to college – something he never thought he could afford. He wants to be a spectator who works with people who are released from prison to link resources such as employment, transit housing, health care and other community support.

“When I first entered the classroom, I understood where these people were coming from,” says Primozich. “It’s amazing to know that so many of these people have gone down and acquired this knowledge throughout their lives and have taken part in it. The more I learned about this area of ​​learning, the more I wanted to. I’m here to help change people’s lives for the better. My main driver is that purpose. ”

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