Johns Creek teens try teaching

Northview High students Lydia Lee (right) and Riana Patel taught a lesson on glass recycling to Findley Oaks Elementary students. Courtesy

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Northview High students Lydia Lee (right) and Riana Patel taught a lesson on glass recycling to Findley Oaks Elementary students. Courtesy

What’s it take to be a teacher these days? A group of teens in the Student Leadership Johns Creek program discovered it’s a bit tougher than it looks after completing a year-long program that recently wrapped with their leading a lesson for elementary students.

Katherine Perrotta, an assistant professor of middle and secondary education at Mercer University’s Atlanta campus, came up with the idea after hearing the teens express an interest.

“A lot of them wanted to go into middle and elementary schools and teach, but first, they needed to know the standards,” she said. “I fashioned the program as an introduction to the profession and had them develop programs that required them to research the standards for the age group they want to teach, write a lesson plan on a topic of interest to them and devise an assessment.”

Perrotta began working with about 30 students from northside area high schools last August. The teams met online to brainstorm topics they wanted to teach in the community. They also drilled down into the resources they’d need for their course, where they’d teach, which principals to reach out to and who the students would be.

“One of the first steps was looking at the Department of Labor’s occupational handbook to learn about the profession,” said Perrotta. “Then we looked at the Georgia Standards of Excellence that would apply to their lesson plans because a lot of principals first wanted to know what standard the lessons would connect to before they agreed to have the students come in.”

That process took the teams into March and April, when they fanned out to area classrooms. Among them were Riana Patel and Lydia Lee, both rising seniors at Northview High, who headed to the afterschool program at Findley Oaks Elementary in Johns Creek with a 45-minute lesson on glass recycling.

“We were definitely nervous at first,” said Patel. “But the students were very engaged and, asked good questions.”

Patel said she and Lee struggled to come up with a topic before deciding on glass recycling.

“We wanted to choose an issue that was relevant and close to home, and it helped when we realized Johns Creek has several initiatives to combat environmental issues,” she said. “We also wanted it to be something younger children and their families could contribute to, something relatable they could connect back to their lives and implement.”

The pair had students create posters to put up around the school. The project was a hit, and the two were invited back to work on it again.

“I also think the students were really excited because we were also students,” said Lee. “Seeing how active and engaged we were about the topic really helped.”

Perrotta said the project succeeded in giving high schoolers the chance to expand their knowledge base, develop leadership skills and work with the community. Whether or not any were inspired to be teachers isn’t clear.

“But I think it was an important for them to learn that you don’t just show up in the classroom and start talking about whatever you’d like,” she said.

Information about all the student projects completed this year are online at

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at or 770-744-3042.