WSD Voice - Podcast

WSD Voice Podcast AdvertisingWSD Voice is a Waterford School District podcast that focuses on topics geared toward inspiring, educating and empowering our students, staff, alumni and community.

The goal of WSD Voice is to inform our audience about our district’s positive news while showcasing our successes. Listen below to learn more about all the exciting and innovative work going on behind the scenes in Waterford School District.  

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Season 3

Episode 2: Teaming at our Middle Schools
Published: January 2024


watch on our youtube channel   Download episode 2 


This past year, our middle schools started using a new teaching method known as "teaming." In this episode, we explore the advantages and challenges of implementing this innovative approach to learning for our WSD sixth through eighth graders.


  • Radhika Issac (Principal, Mason Middle School)
  • Kyle Schultz (Principal, Pierce Middle School)
  • Joe Brown (Teacher, Pierce Middle School)
  • Kolbe Sudgen (7th grade, Pierce Middle School)


  • Sarah Davis, Director of Communications and Community Relations
  • Scott Lindberg, Superintendent
  • Producer: Jane Tekiele, Video Production Coordinator

- Hello, welcome to "WSD Voice," a podcast focused on positive and informative news in Waterford School District. I am your host, Sarah Davis, the director of Communications and Community Relations, and I am here with Waterford School District Superintendent, Scott Lindberg. For those of you who are watching this podcast today on our YouTube channel, you may notice a little bit of a different setup. We had been sharing a studio with Media Network, but with our growing podcast, we realized we needed more space of our own, so here we are and as happy as we are to have this new studio. We did wanna thank Media Network for sharing their space and equipment with us for the past two years.

- Yes, it was because of that partnership that the podcast was even able to get going a couple years ago. So, we're grateful to them and the partnership indeed. Well, so now onto our podcast topic. Today, we have a couple of our middle school principals and we're here gonna talk about teaming at the middle schools sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. And as a former middle school teacher and principal, this is the topic I'm very passionate about 'cause I know it's good for kids teaching and learning.

- Yeah, absolutely. "So, what is teaming?" you may ask. I had the same question myself. So, we're going to get the answer to that and more with our guest today. We have with us Radhika Issac, principal at Mason Middle School, and Kyle Schultz, principal at Pierce Middle School. Both of these principals have been responsible for implementing this innovative teaching approach, which we started last year. So certainly, they both will have some great insights. Welcome to the show, Radhika and Kyle,

- Thank you for having us.

- [Kyle] Yeah, thanks for having us.

- Yep, no problem. So, Radhika will start with you. What is teaming and how does it differ from maybe a more traditional teaching method?

- Yeah, what I really appreciate about teaming is, you know, middle school is a transition from elementary to high school. So we go from one classroom, you know, just leaving that one classroom few times a day to now going to six different classes during the day. And so, what teaming allows us to do is it creates kind of a small neighborhood within our larger building. So each of our grade levels, we have two teams. Each team has four core teachers and what it does is with the four core teachers, we physically locate them right near one another. And the students that are part of that team, which is about 150 or so students, they have the same four core teachers and their lockers are right there. So essentially physically, it is a neighborhood within a building.

- Okay, so why would you use this method versus maybe a more traditional teaching method? Kyle, what are some of the benefits you get from teaming?

- Well, besides the fact that this is a much easier transition for students as they move on from elementary school to middle school, it's also develops a stronger sense of community within the school for both students and staff. They're now connected to a smaller group makes it a larger school, seem a lot smaller. It allows for students and staff to get to know each other better. And staff to get to know the needs of their students. Staff is able to stay entirely within one grade and share a common planning period, which is a huge advantage for, you know, meeting the needs of each of those individual kids. And it also allows the staff to work collaboratively on meeting the unique academic social and emotional needs of students and the middle school, because it's such a transition year and students are very need a lot of of support in all of those areas.

- Okay, so several benefits then. Radhika, you already just discussed what teaming is, but what, can you give us a little bit more of the details, How our team's formed? What are some of the processes used to select? What teachers or what students are part of each group? Some of those kinds of things.

- Yeah, so when students are transitioning from fifth to sixth grade, we ask our fifth grade teachers and even the students get a lot of input as to what their best learning scenarios might be, where we can support them. And then based on that, we really use a community focus. We wanna create again that sense of neighborhood. So, we want students to be represented in both teams equally. And so, we take a lot of time and effort to make sure that the staff that we place into each team has chosen to be there, is excited to work as a team. As Kyle mentioned, you know, we have the same prep period. So, there's five days of time built in for our teachers to actually collaborate with these students. So, we put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that our students feel welcomed. And so when we do put students on teams, though it's pretty random in some way, but not really because we sort of hand select and make sure that we put students exactly where we think that they're going to be successful.

- Okay, thanks for that information, Radhika. Let's take a quick commercial break, and then we will be back to learn more about teaming.

- [Scott] Hello, Waterford School District Superintendent Scotland Lindberg here. The Waterford Pool and Fitness Center is your recreation and fitness community center. We offer a welcoming, supportive environment for people who are interested in recreation, fitness and enjoyment. We have both land and water fitness classes for all levels and offer both annual and three month memberships. Find out more about our pools and fitness center programming on our website at That's

- Okay, and we're back again with Radhika Issac, principal at Mason, and Kyle Schultz, principal at Pierce to discuss teaming in our middle schools. So, it's obvious from this discussion that teaming requires a lot of partnership, which sometimes can result in other challenges. Kyle, there have been many challenges I'm sure that have come up. Can you kind of talk about some of those challenges, how you've worked through those? A couple of examples of that.

- Yeah, I think the number one challenge was that this was a new model for almost all of our staff. And so, it was a challenge for us to figure out how to maximize the advantages of of teaming. And we've done that a couple ways through professional development, both at the district level and at the building level, utilizing PLC meetings and having not only academic area meetings, but also grade level meetings in order for them to work together and collaborate. And then also allowing teachers to use their conference period to problem solve, whether it be issues within the team that they need to work out or how they can best support some of their, the students on their team.

- Okay, Radhika, any challenges from Mason?

- Yeah, similar to what was already shared. I'll just add onto that along with the professional learning, one of the things that we've offered our staff is to come in and model. I have staff that came from buildings and experiences that included teaming practices. So, we're capitalizing on the wealth of knowledge that's already in the building. We also, a lot, the biggest challenge is really practicing our restorative and making sure that we are restorative as a group of adults, and then also with our students. It has afforded us opportunities to really, you know, whenever there's a conflict, which there's always conflict, whether it's in the classroom, in the hallways, not getting along with the teacher or disliking something that's happening, the teaming model really allows our staff to meet together and to collaborate. And we've had restorative circles with staff and students to then, again, our focus is building that community. So, that was a challenge that I did not anticipate. However, it's something that we've discovered that's been an asset.

- Okay. And then now kind of reversing that question, if you could give some positive examples of how teaming has work. Radhika, why don't you just keep going? And then Kyle, you can follow up after her.

- Yeah, I'm a big proponent of teaming, so I have a lot of positives that came from that. The biggest positive for me is that students know that they belong here. There's somebody on the team. You know, we don't get along with all the adults that are here to support us, but we get along with some, and teaming allows students to build those relationships in a more meaningful way. With six different teachers, if the teachers, four of them we know talk to one another. I have the same four teachers as my classmates do. And that in itself allows us to, allows the students to feel comfortable to know that, you know, I get to start over every class period. But also if I'm having a tough time, my teacher's gonna have my back into the next class and let my next teacher know if there is something that they need to be mindful of. So, it has been amazing to create that sense of belonging. That's certainly a very large positive for us at the middle level in Waterford.

- Yeah, nothing so important than sense of belonging, huh? All right, Kyle?

- Yeah, similar to Radhika, our number one positive has been both the students and staff taking greater pride in ownership in the communities that they're building together, that they've built together, anywhere from like the fun stuff that's important in middle school, such as like the silly team names that they've created. And the students and staff work together to create those things and plan events as a team in order to connect these kids to not only to the school, but also to their team. We've seen a lot, a huge increase in school spirit, school pride, just from the teaming model. And then there's the, also the serious stuff, using the team concept to allow staff and students to address problems within the school as they arise in a collaborative manner where both the staff and the students take ownership over the solutions. Overall, it's made a world of difference for us. We know that, you know, it's the ideal model for middle schools.

- Awesome. So, wonderful examples from both of you. And obviously, these were probably the results we were hoping for when we started teaming. Scott, you were the one along with the teaching and learning team who decided to implement teaming in the middle school. So, can you talk a little bit about what was the impetus for starting it?

- Well, I would say came right from our community. When I first came here four and a half years ago, talking with parents, talking with students and teachers, we had some opportunity to better do our transitions from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school. And we know, I know that research shows that teaming helps with that, because the sense of belonging that was mentioned. Relationship, also relevance, rigor. So, I've always talked about relationship first, relevance to the what's going on around the students, and then, you can attack the rigor and that gets kids ready as they continue to move on and progress. But if you think about if you've ever had a middle school student, 11, 12, 13 year olds, there's a lot going on there and, you know, they're experiencing life and things are changing. So, we want a team belonging approach that will help benefit and support our students from the elementary as they're growing and getting ready into high school. And so certainly, that came from our community. We have made progress. We're gonna continue to make progress. But that transition from one level to the next has been critically important and something our community really wanted us to do a little bit better on.

- Okay, so we've heard from Scott about why teaming was implemented, but what about the teachers and the students affected by this decision? Scott headed to Pierce Middle School to get some feedback. So, let's play that clip.

- Well, hello Scott Lindberg, superintendent of Waterford School District here. And today, we are at Pierce Middle School, grade six, seven, and eight. And we have one of our students here and a teacher. I'm gonna have them introduce themselves, and then I've got a couple questions for them.

- Hello, my name is Kolbe Sudgen. I'm in seventh grade and I go to Pierce Middle School.

- All right, Kolbe, I gotta ask, what's your favorite subject?

- Math.

- Math, all right. Mr. Brown. Mr. Joe Brown, you teach here at Pierce, tell us a little bit about your time here and what do you teach?

- I've been here for seven years. I teach Math and Math Enrichment here in the seventh grade hallway.

- Okay, great. Well, you know, we're here today talking about teaming. That's something new we started here at the middle schools, both Pierce and Mason. And tell me a little bit about what are the benefits to teachers for teaming when you're talking about collaborating, lesson planning, and curriculum implementation.

- So, one of the major benefits I've seen so far is the strengthening the relationships between the students and the teachers. We come together. We talk about curriculum, how we can spread it across the board. We can help each other out. And then, the one-on-one relationships with the students as well. That's been a major benefit since we've implemented teaming within the school building.

- Yeah, one of the things, and of course I was in a middle school, I was a principal for 12 years, taught in a middle school for almost four. So, it's very near and dear to my heart. But middle school always talked about relationships, relevance and rigor. And you talked about that relationship. How do you meet the needs of our diverse learning population?

- So our team personally, we meet, well we do our weekly PLC meetings, but we talk on a daily basis. Like we meet in the hallways, between classes. If we have an issue, not even just an issue, if we just have to talk about certain students or what we need to better meet the needs of our students, we talk on a regular. We have a text message chain, we email, we call, we meet regularly to help meet the needs and the success of our students. Just constant communication.

- Yeah. So, how is that different now with teaming? How does that model work better than maybe it did before?

- We're more open. The relationships are open now. We're encouraged to share and to work with each other. And there's even a competitive nature, a friendly competitive nature between the other teams. So, and like we have competition throughout here. We have the Pierce Cup that we're competing for. The spirit, the school culture's up. I mean it's a great environment right now so.

- Yeah, environment and where kids feel connected that's first and most important. Kolbe, tell me a little bit about what do you think about the teaming approach?

- I think teaming is good because one reason is because I could be with people throughout the day that I feel comfortable with. And if I need help with anything, they can, I can always, if there's people in the other class, I can always ask them for help 'cause I feel comfortable with them.

- Yeah, that's great. Yeah, relationships, feeling comfortable with not only your classmates, but al also your teachers. Okay, Mr. Brown, another question for you. When we're talking about academics, the four of you teachers on a team working together, how do you ensure that academic success for all of the students on the team is paramount to everything you do every day?

- So, a great example this year is we've implemented DreamBox and Lexia and we spread that across both, you know, Math teacher to the Science teacher with DreamBox. And if they're not meeting their goals in the Math class with DreamBox, the Science teacher, I'll give a list and she'll make sure or try to make sure that those students get those five lessons. Same with the Language Arts teachers, Social Studies, they'll be on Lexia. If they don't meet those set goals, they'll hop on Lexia and social studies and do that. I do the same thing with missing assignments. If we have a lot of missing assignments in Math or Social Studies Science, they can do 'em in other classes if they have time like downtime. And our whole team is on the same page with that as long as they're not doing it during class time. So, we are all on the same page. We communicate that and the students know that as well. We have that structure and we accommodate to the students that need that help so.

- Excellent. So, all focused on relationships, relevance, rigor, helping students be successful in all they do. So again, we're here today at Pierce Middle School with Mr. Brown and Kolbe. Thank you to you both for spending some time with us today.

- Okay, great feedback and positivity from our teacher Joe Brown and student Kolbe, both from Pierce there, about the beauty of teaming and how it is working for them. As I stated earlier, our district is relatively new to teaming. We just started it at the middle schools last year. So with that being said, Radhika and Kyle, looking ahead, what do you envision for the future of teaming in the middle schools? And Scott, if you have any insight into this, that's great too. So, whoever wants to go first.

- Yeah, I'll go first. I'll make that decision for us. I, honestly, you know, I think teaming, every scenario has its pros and cons, right? Every scenario you have to give something to then gain something. And teaming does have its challenges, you know, creating a master schedule. These are all adult challenges by the way. You know, creating a master schedule, trying to make sure that we are able to meet the needs of all of our students with their specific plans, things like that. Those are challenges that us as adults we work through. And as long as we're committed to it for the students, there's very few giving up of anything that they have to do. It's really, really truly beneficial for students. I look forward to the commitment from our district. Teaming does take more effort, more time, more energy. There has to be a budget that's dedicated to teaming because it does take a lot more to put that into place because it is best practice. And so, I look forward to continuing that within our district and growing our staff and really engaging with our community and the neighborhood style that we have within our middle schools.

- [Sarah] Kyle, anything to add to that or did she sum it up?

- I mean, just that, you know, we already mentioned that it's what's best for kids, so that's research-based, and you know, it's best for staff as well. You know, I've seen improvement just in the staff's morale. And they knew that was what's best for staff so, or for students, so that's a huge commitment by the district and we really appreciate it.

- And Scott, district level, you kind of have that overreaching thought on features and programming.

- I love what I hear. It's best for students, it's best practice, and it's good for staff. The collaboration, working together, working with parents and students on your team. And that's just the best way to go. We get the results there that we're looking for. And it's just really the heart of the middle school being on a team, having that sense of belonging and working together for what's best for the whole school.

- So, it sounds like the implementation has gone well, but it is a commitment. So Scott, what would, what advice do you have for maybe other districts who are considering doing teaming?

- Well, you wanna, again, be committed. You wanna be providing professional development, both at the district level and the building level as was mentioned here. But also the time to work through some of those challenges that come up and the support there for the teachers to work with students and families to develop those norms, develop the way we do things, both on the team and in the school building. But again, I would say for any district, look at best practice. Look at what's best for kids and certainly that connectiveness to the school community, to the their teachers is so critically important. We know that. Just going to college, going to high school, any of the success comes from that commitment, that connectedness. And that's what we're talking about with teaming. And so, it's not always easy, but it's something that I would highly encourage any district to look at who isn't doing it already at the middle school level.

- Okay, there you have it. The ins and outs of middle school teaming. Radhika and Kyle, thank you for being here to provide insight on this topic. It sounds like some really innovative and comprehensive learning is taking place at the middle schools and a lot of that is because you are leading that practice. Also, thank you again to Pierce Middle School teacher Joe Brown and Pierce student Kolbe for their unique perspectives on the value of teaming. That is the end of this episode. Thank you for tuning in to our award-winning podcast, "WSD Voice." This podcast is brought to you by Waterford School District's Department of School and Community Services, and is produced by Video Production Coordinator Jane Tekiele. I am the host of this podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find all episodes of "WSD Voice," on our website at or you can tune into 89.5 WHS or Radio Central Multicultural. We also invite you to subscribe to the podcast, which is available on Apple Podcast, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcast, and if you want to watch the recording, on our WSB YouTube channel. We so appreciate you listening today and encourage you to tune into future episodes of "WSD Voice," as we discuss topics geared toward inspiring, educating, and empowering our students, staff, alumni, and community to thrive.

Episode 1: Link Crew: Peer-to-Peer Mentorship at WSD
Published: October 2023


watch on our youtube channel   Download episode 1

In our first episode of Season 3, we explore Link Crew, a peer-to-peer mentorship program at Mott and Kettering high schools where juniors and seniors welcome 9th graders to ensure they have a smooth journey through high school.

Meg Grossnickle (Link Crew Coordinator/Language Arts Teacher, Kettering)

Ashlyn Campbell (12th grade, Kettering)

Mateo Santiago (11th grade, Kettering)

Andrew Miller (Link Crew Coordinator/Science Teacher, Mott)

Erick Guillen (12th grade, Mott)

Hosts: Sarah Davis, Director of Communications and Community Relations
Scott Lindberg, Superintendent

Producer: Jane Tekiele, Video Production Coordinator

- Hello, welcome to our third season of WSD Voice, a podcast focused on positive and informative news in Waterford School District. I am your host, Sarah Davis, the Director of Communications and Community Relations, and I'm here with Waterford School District Superintendent Scott Lindberg. Say hello to everyone, Scott.

- Hello everyone, good to have you all back in the studio with us today.

- How was your summer?

- Oh, fantastic, what summer? It was a long time ago.

- I know. I'm glad that you had some time to recharge. We did get some exciting news over here ourselves. We learned that this podcast was awarded a 2023 Publications and Digital Media Excellence Award from the National School Public Relations Association which recognizes exemplary work in school public relations throughout the country. And then just last week we learned that we won an award of merit for WSD Voice from the Michigan School Public Relations Association which is similar to the national group but instead focuses on school PR just in the state of Michigan. So our department was thrilled with both of those.

- Yeah, that's fantastic. You know, again, I think that the awards speak to the multiple ways that we wanna connect with our community, with our parents and really even with our students. So congratulations to you and your department and really the entire district that helps us with our communications.

- Thank you. So let's get to the topic of why we are here today. We are kicking off this season by discussing Link Crew, a program that both Mott and Kettering High Schools they have their upperclassmen welcome ninth graders to ensure that they have a smooth transition and journey into high school. And to help us with that discussion, we have Andrew Miller, a Science teacher at Mott High School and Meg Grossnickle, Language Arts teacher at Kettering, both of which are Link Crew program coordinators for their respective schools. So welcome to both of you to WSD Voice.

- Thanks for having me.

- Thank you.

- Andrew, we're gonna start with you. Can you explain what Link Crew is and if you know how long it's been a program in our school district for?

- So Link Crew, like you said it's a program designed to help sort of usher in the freshmen into high school, give them a warm welcome, moving in from middle school. As far as I know, Link Crew, so it's definitely been around. This is year seven since I started in the district and it's been a thing since I have been in the district. And actually my wife graduated from Mott in 2012 and she was a Link leader when she was here, so.

- Oh, very cool.

- Yeah, at least since 2012.

- Awesome. All right, Meg, can you explain how Link Crew works? Are students assigned to a specific mentor? Are all ninth graders included in the program? Just what are kind of the parameters for Link Crew?

- So starting in February, juniors and seniors can apply to be a part of the Link Crew program and we look through the applications, conduct interviews as necessary to select about 50 to 60 Link Crew leaders who will step up as mentors for the following year. We do training with them at the end of that year and then some training over the summer and then they are given a group of eight to 12 freshmen that they are responsible for. So those groupings we try to make just random and organic just so that they're making sure to connect with everybody at school and as new students join the Waterford Kettering community and I'm sure at Mott too, we assign them to a Link leader whether they are a freshman or a sophomore or junior just to make sure that they have that extra connection.

- Okay, wonderful. How do the 11th and 12th graders connect with the freshmen and what are some examples of some of the things the Link Crew may do throughout the year even beyond that first year to help students feel included?

- So our biggest event actually happens on the very first day of school with the freshman orientation program. So we do some extensive training, not only in teaching the Link leaders events to run with the freshmen but also how to work with the freshmen. What do you do when somebody is resistant to an idea? How can we be welcoming teaching them some of those leadership philosophies? So freshman orientation students will come in and they work with their Link leaders in a classroom for pretty much the entire morning. It's amazing. There's no teacher in the room, it's just the Link leaders leading students through events that not only are getting them to bond and to connect but are also designed to teach them what are some of the important skills that they need to be successful throughout the year. After freshman orientation we do a wide range of events. Largely we put it back on the Link leaders what are the needs of the freshmen class and how can we fulfill that need. So one need just recently that we had identified was that the freshmen were not attending football games. So we worked with the athletic department to get them wristbands to get into a game for free. And then the Link leaders taught them this is how you participate in the student section, this is what it means to be a part of the Kettering crazies. Throughout the year we'll do a lot of different programs. We do trunk or treat with freshmen that meet certain benchmarks. We'll do cocoa and cram before final exams teaching freshmen how to study 'cause for many of them this is the first time they're really studying for classes. And then we do a lot of daily activities where we're just checking in and connecting. Teachers and freshmen can say, "I would like a visit from my Link leader" and Link leaders will go and connect with those freshmen to help on a wide range of issues. It doesn't have to be academic, it could be social, emotional, behavioral, something that they need some advice on.

- I like that. Putting it back in the hands of the Link leaders to come up with actual ideas of things that they may have experienced and how to create programs that could help the new freshmen. Andrew, how do you ensure inclusivity in Link Crews so that all students feel welcome?

- Yeah, so inclusivity is at the core of what Link sort of represents for the school. So when we are selecting our leaders, typically we try to make it a very intentional effort to make our group of Link leaders look like the student body of the school. And so we're looking for, you know, kids from all sorts of cultural backgrounds, kids from, you know, every social group in the school, different academic skill levels, different interests and hobbies outside of school trying to get the entire range of what it means to be a courser or a captain into this group. That way when the freshmen come in they can see, you know not only are there people, upperclassmen who they can look up to that you know, maybe they can fall in their footsteps and you know, sort of shadow for the year. But also like we wanna make it a big point to them. Like you have a spot here and there are people here to support you in that spot. And we're so happy that you have found your spot at our school.

- All right, wonderful. Okay, we're gonna take a quick commercial break. And then we will be right back to learn more about the Link Crew.

- Hello Waterford School District, Superintendent Scott Lindberg here. Did you know that children can fall behind academically if they miss 10% of school days? Attendance and school is so crucial for student success and wellbeing which is why the Waterford School District has implemented a Waterford attendance success program to help educate our students and parents about why going to school matters. Attending school support students social, emotional and physical wellbeing and provide students with opportunities to learn, achieve and to reach out for their dreams. Find out more about our program on our website, That's because here at Waterford School District, every day counts.

- Okay, we are back again with Meg Grossnickle from Kettering and Andrew Miller from Mott discussing our high school's amazing Link Crew program.

- Meg, peer mentorship is at the heart of this program. Why is this type of mentorship so important for our students?

- I think we know that students do better when they feel connected to a community. And so this provides a connection from the very first day of school. Their very first experience is, hey here are not just teachers but here are other students who want you to be successful and who want you to be here. And I think that relationship just is essential as we go throughout the year. We're not only providing freshmen though with that support for success, but we're also empowering our upperclassmen to learn those communication and leadership skills that will make them not just successful in college or career plans but really are so essential to every single relationship that they will have. So to see those relationships form and those student mentors really step into that role is also an amazing thing.

- And Andrew, what are the positive effects that you see from the results of this program?

- Well, my personal opinion about probably the most positive impact that Link has on the school as a whole is just getting the freshman class involved and incorporated into the school. Like I can't tell you how many freshmen I teach primarily freshmen here at Mott. So I can't tell you how many kids have come up to me and said, hey, I joined this club because my Link leader showed me that it was a thing. And you know, I really like video games for example. So I joined video game club here or I, you know, was unsure about if I should try out for the baseball team but my Link leaders are on the baseball team and he encouraged me to join. So getting those freshmen involved in the school right from the get-go and showing them all the opportunities that they have here that's probably the coolest thing to me. That's probably the biggest impact that I see on a day-to-day from the leaders.

- Okay, Andrew, can you give an example of Link Crew working at its finest?

- Yeah, so one like specific example that I think about all the time really was I think the first year that I was involved in Link Crew here, there was a kid class of 2020, freshman class of 2022. And both were very, very into the performing arts here. She was a little shyer, he was very much not shy and she like to see the mentorship that he gave her throughout the year and then, you know, watching them put on shows together for the next two years that was probably like, first of all phenomenal performances in and of themselves. But outside of that, like they have continued that relationship even beyond high school. Like I still see them performing in plays together to this day. Like they, I think the show that they just put on over in Pontiac was a Cinderella show and they were both starring in this show and they started because he encouraged her to get involved in the drama club here at Mott. Like I think like the ability to build a relationship as a freshman and then carry that way beyond high school. I hear about stuff like that all the time and I think that like that warms my heart so much. It's so cool to see.

- Yeah, that's a great example. And also a nod to our amazing performing arts programming that we have here for Waterford School District. Meg, do you have an example?

- I think there's so much power in the day-to-day interactions when we see those individual conversations and having freshmen ask and request to have their Link leaders come and see them really speaks to just how important that is, that sense of connection and community. Specifically an example that comes to mind actually just happened today, we had a freshman student who was feeling very nervous about homecoming, didn't have anybody to go with. There was a lot of, you know, misconceptions about that whole thing. You don't have to have a date, blah, blah, blah. And so one of our Link leaders asked her freshman to come with her group and she's like, I'm going with a group of friends, why don't you come with me? And that is nothing that we ask the Link leader to do. That was just something she saw an opportunity, she thought about what would she have liked when she was a freshman and she just totally stepped up and was incredibly supportive of that freshman in that moment.

- Yeah, that's super nice. What a great example. Meg, how do you ensure that the mentorship remains effective and meaningful for both the Link Crew team but then also the new student throughout the entire school year?

- So we one, reach out to teachers and ask for ideas. What are the needs that they are seeing? How can we help meet those needs? We also survey the freshmen and the Link leaders throughout the year. So we have a Link Crew class. It's not a requirement of a Link leader to be in the class but it certainly is helpful and they can then look through that survey information from both the freshmen and other Link leaders and teachers to figure out what are our next steps? How do we make sure that we're being effective in our check-ins? We have a lot of different protocols for checking in with freshmen and for reporting back what happened. But a lot of it is just being open to the suggestions and open to the ideas. What are the freshmen saying they're needing? What's the feel in the building? What are the survey results telling us?

- So listening. Okay, we've heard a lot from our two Link Crew program coordinators but let's hear what our students have to say. Scott recently headed out to interview some of our Link Crew mentors to get their perspective on the program. Let's listen to Kettering's interview first.

- Hello, Scott Lindberg here, Waterford Superintendent. We're here at Kettering High School to talk with two of our students who are involved in the Link Crew here at Kettering. So Ashlyn, why don't you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your experience with Link Crew.

- I'm Ashlyn Campbell. I'm a senior here at Kettering and I've been in Link Crew for the past two years and I really enjoy connecting with the freshmen and the people here at Kettering. Just everyone, I think it's a great program and a way to stay connected to the school.

- Yeah, that's great, great. And Mateo, tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection here with the Link Crew.

- So I'm Mateo Santiago. I am in 11th grade. This is my first year doing Link Crew. I'm liking it so far. It's really fun connecting with all the kids and just letting 'em know that high school is not a bad thing.

- Yeah, it's not a bad thing. It's a good place, exciting four years. Talk to us a little bit about the most effective strategies in connecting with our new freshmen, our ninth graders.

- For freshman orientation especially the first day of school, we have a series of events that we always do in each classroom. Each kid we take them around a tour of the school, which really helps them. And I think like the activities that make them moving and like we have one that we throw a ball around. That one's just fun and makes you laugh and everyone has a good time with that one.

- It's a good experience and we want them to be comfortable. We talked a little bit about your first days of school and the relationships with teachers. How do you encourage the ninth grade freshmen students to be comfortable in the new high school setting?

- Just going out there and trying new things. Honestly, like it's good to just talk. I mean, I know it's like, oh I'm nervous but just going out there and letting them know like, hey I like this stuff, this is my name. Just things you like and stuff like that. I think it really helps just connect with them a little bit better.

- Yeah, and let me ask just a final question. How do you bridge the gap for the rest of the year? What does this look like with the Link Crew for you and the freshmen the rest of the year?

- So for the rest of the year we do like check-ins. So we have our like big thing which is the orientation and then after that we go into like check-ins like once a week. And then we just like plan out like if you're not doing too well, we're like okay these are the things we could like work on. And then if you're doing really good we're just like, hey you're doing great, keep up the good work we'll see you at the next week. You know, just give them pointers on what could they could be doing better or you know, stuff like that. What they could carry on doing.

- Yeah, great. Ashlyn, do you think you would've liked the Link Crew or was the Link Crew here when you came to Kettering?

- Yeah, it was a little different because it was online and everything but they really helped me when I first came in the school and adding on to Mateo's question, we are now starting these things like it's once a month each, like every freshman of every class and everything come in one time an hour throughout the month. And just everyone's in there and we have like a new thing that we're gonna teach them about like the easier things that you wouldn't think about teaching but they don't know like how to navigate MiStar and everything like that. So we really think that's gonna help our freshmen this year.

- Well thank you so much, Ashlyn, Mateo, thank you for helping our students, your colleagues here at Kettering feel a part of the Kettering High School and being a captain. Thanks so much.

- All right, great information on Link Crew coming from Ashlyn and Mateo at Kettering. Now let's listen to our Mott mentor.

- Scott Lindberg, Superintendent of Waterford Schools here at Mott High School. And I have senior Erickk. And I would like to just to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself.

- My name is Erick, I'm a senior here at Waterford Mott. This is my second year in Link Crew and after school I play tennis and I'm in marching band.

- So tell us a little bit about your mentoring. When did you make, tell us about a positive difference that you made in a freshman's transition here to Mott High School.

- Well, on the first day of school when we got our groups of freshmen, I saw that one of my freshmen had a locker that was like three or four lockers down from mine and he was having trouble opening his locker. So I wanted to help him with that. And I didn't want to, you know, just open it for him and then leave him confused the next time he has to open his locker. So I went to the locker next to him, asked if I could help and did the combination. And we did it at the same time, side by side. And then we got him to open his locker and then he faced another problem because he wasn't used to the thin lockers that we have at Mott. So I was trying to help him organize his school supplies like I do to make it all fit and yeah. And I'm reminded of it every day because his locker is right next to mine so.

- Oh, that's great, so good location. So what are some of the challenges that freshmen have transitioning from middle school to high school? Things that you keep in mind that you can help the new freshmen with?

- Yeah, well the freshmen, they used to be eighth graders so they're used to being like the oldest in the middle school, like the most knowledgeable about where everything is. So they're not really used to like everybody else helping them. They're used to helping others. So they're a little hesitant receiving help at first but as long as you're know personable and nice, they're actually very welcoming when you actually do try to help.

- Well excellent. It's so important to welcome our freshmen in. Erick, thank you for all you do on Link Crew.

- Yep.

- And great representation. Again coming from Erick over at Mott talking about his experience as commissioner of Link Crew. Thank you to all of our students for agreeing to participate in this podcast because there really is nothing more important than getting your perspective. Andrew, for our listeners, is there any way that the broader educational community can contribute to or support Link Crew?

- Yeah, we're always open to, you know, broader community support just in terms of like getting support for the events that we put on throughout the year. So orientation's our first big one. And then after that we have things like smaller events, Freshman Tailgate that we try to put on every year. We have our cocoa and cram that we put on every year. So donations are great if we get them. Outside of that, simply encouraging freshmen to participate in these events is a huge support for the program because these leaders, they put a lot of time and effort into planning the events, into training for the events. So getting freshmen to participate, getting some buy-in from them, it goes a very, very long way for us.

- Scott, this is an amazing program.

- It sure is.

- And for those who don't know we also have similar programming at the middle school called WEB which stands for Where Everybody Belongs. So peer mentorship is a very important piece of this district. How do you see Link Crew fitting in with this in our strategic plan?

- Well, the strategic plan is about having everybody involved, inclusivity. And this program really speaks to that. You've got the peer mentoring going on and students that have walked in their shoes before and so they've experienced all of the challenges of the transitions and the celebrations and so they can speak to them and their voice, right? Because they've been there and they're there with them. And to have that mentorship right in the building where they're connecting with 'em, I just think it's awesome. And talking with the students in those interviews we saw that as well.

- Absolutely. Well thank you Scott, and again thank you to our two Link Crew leaders, Megan, Andrew. As well as our Link Crew student representatives, Ashlyn, Mateo, and Erick. The work each of you are doing in this district to make newcomers feel welcome and connected is very important and we appreciate everything that you're doing. So that's the end of this episode. Thank you for tuning in to our now award-winning show, WSD Voice. This podcast is brought to you by Waterford School District's Department of School and Community Services and is produced by video production coordinator Jane Tekiele. I am the host of this podcast, Sarah Davis and you can find all episodes of WSD Voice on our website at Or you can tune in to 89.5 WAHS or Radio Central Multicultural. We also invite you to subscribe to the podcast which is available on Apple Podcast, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcast. And if you wanna watch the recording on our WSD YouTube channel, we so appreciate you listening today and encourage you to tune in to future episodes of WSD Voice as we discuss topics geared toward inspiring, educating and empowering our students, staff, alumni and community to thrive.