FIGS Board President Kelly Lytle on the Impact of Being a Learning Partner

FIGS Board President Kelly Lytle on the Impact of Being a Learning Partner

By Kelly Lytle

My First Morning as an IGS Learning Partner


I started on a cold, February morning. The winter wind whipped up against my cheeks. I buried my head from the cold, watching new flakes of snow fall atop the coat already on the ground. Sprinkles dusting the Earth, then disappearing - like the smoke I could see coming off each breath. I had two blocks to walk to reach Near West Intergenerational School.


And I was nervous.


Nervous and excited.


Nervous because it was my first morning as a Learning Partner, part of the network of community members who work alongside students to laugh and learn, share ideas, and—in my case—read together.


Excited because this first day marked my first chance to meet a new community of lifelong learners and get lost in the magic of words, books, and stories.


When I reached the school, I took in a big, icy breath and told my thumping heart to chill out. Then, I stepped inside, ready to start the journey of reading, learning, and connecting with students.


Could anything be any better?


That first morning, one student and I read a few chapters from The Tale of Despereaux. All my life, I've loved stories and how words can string together to capture our imaginations, forge bonds that connect us, and spark emotions within. This morning, we followed Despereaux as music that sounds like honey started the mouse on his life’s adventure, one ultimately full of kings and Princesses, hope and betrayals, danger, love, friendship, and so much more.


We alternated reading paragraphs and fumbled some pronunciations. Small laughs filled the quiet library, and time disappeared as we flipped the pages of a grand story. Soon—too soon—it was time to close the book and head home. Outside, the falling snow dressed my coat and hat, and the wind howled a frosty growl. But I didn’t mind. I stopped for a moment. I looked back toward the school. Then, down a small street free of cars. The snow covered the road and hugged the trees.


My mind raced with ideas. I was energized, excited, and so happy to have spent a morning reading and traveling to new worlds together.


An Opportunity to Give Back in Support of a Unique Learning Model


Near West Intergenerational School is one of three schools that make up The Intergenerational Schools. The Intergenerational Schools mission is to connect, create, and guide a multigenerational community of lifelong learners and spirited citizens as they strive for academic excellence.


Walk down the halls, speak with teachers, laugh a little with a student, and you'll understand how the small class sizes, multi-age classrooms, connected community, and mastery-based learning, combined with the spirit of curiosity and enthusiasm for lifelong learning, make The Intergenerational Schools one of the highest-performing charter networks in Ohio.


Good Medicine For Your Soul


Every Friday morning for the next five or six years after that first reading adventure, I spent mornings as a Learning Partner reading with students. We learned about what makes a hurricane a hurricane and what creates tornadoes. We traveled with Charlie into the great glass elevator and certainly had some adventures with waffles.


We laughed a lot and sometimes put down the books to talk about science or math, homework and projects coming due, weekend fun, or sports. More than once, we had to be reminded to watch our volume while in the library.


Each Friday, I walked out of the school with the same excitement, energy, and enthusiasm as that first morning.


It's rewarding to be part of a school network that works so hard to cultivate community connections and a love for learning in its students.


Even more meaningful, though, is sitting in the library on those Friday mornings. Watching eyes sparkle when we’d reach the right ending or seeing faces puzzle over a new plot twist and high-fiving at the learning of new words and laughing together at something funny.


When asked about being a Learning Partner with The Intergenerational Schools, I always have the same answer: The moments of joy you'll have learning with and from the students are just good medicine for your soul.


To learn more about becoming a Learning Partner with the Intergenerational Schools, click here.  

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