The Role of an EAST Facilitator

Last Updated:4/25/2024

EAST Student Contributor Emma Kelley spoke with a couple of EAST facilitators about their approach to education, and why they love their jobs.

An EAST facilitator is often mistaken for a normal teacher, but facilitators are not teachers. A facilitator’s job is to watch over the students in their class, to be there to push them to do their best, and help them work through challenges. Facilitators do not lecture the class. Facilitators let the kids do what they need to do, empower them to take over their own learning, and to give students a feel of the real world and working with real people.

One facilitator who showcases what a real facilitator is, rather than a teacher-facilitator, is Ms. Kelsi Peterson, the facilitator at the Wynne Intermediate School EAST program.

Ms. Kelsi described facilitating in her own words and experiences, “Every year when I start class, I tell them that these are their projects, they are in control of their learning, they get to seize the opportunity to be in charge, and that I am just there to make sure no fires get started and to provide login passwords. It takes a while, but I live for the moment when my littles finally realize what that means and that they have a say in what their school and community can become. They are not limited by their size or their experience in the world, and often they see things just as well, if not better, than many adults.”

Even though she is an awesome facilitator now, she has not always been a facilitator. Before EAST, Ms. Kelsi taught oral communications, theater, and stagecraft for three years at Wynne High School. As a high school teacher, she found her teaching style to be more professor-like and open-minded to the kids' creativity. She has always wanted the kids to be in control of their learning and liked to make the learning connected to real-life situations that correlated with their aspirations. But, Ms. Kelsi decided to make the switch to being an EAST facilitator.

The switch was surprising to her because she found high schoolers and intermediate students similar in the way they look at school. Her first year was trial and error until she found the style that worked for her and for her students. She discovered that knowing them personally and individually is important because it affects many things in the EAST classroom. She values her kids completely. She wants to know how they learn, work, and grow so that her class can benefit them as much as possible. She understands that she must be able to adapt quickly, support their ideas, and understand the kids' limits. 

She also understands that if she wants her students to use the equipment in their EAST class, she needs to know how to use it, too. Through working with kids who only know how to be taught rather than facilitated, she has learned ways to challenge them to learn things in their own way. She likes to answer questions with a question and then walk away so that they are forced to think about their questions and hers. She also likes to give good advice, including telling them that there is no right or wrong way to do something, to have confidence in themselves, to speak up for themselves, and to prove themselves through their work so that people will not doubt them.

Ms. Kelsi said that she has not had a problem with an adult doubting her kids, but she said if she ever ran into this problem, she would make sure the doubter knows the kids' capabilities and intentions. Overall, as a facilitator, Ms. Kelsi is gentle, understanding, patient, lighthearted, and uplifting. She doesn't want her kids to fail; she wants them to grow! 

She loves her kids and all the things that come along with it. “What I love most about being a facilitator is seeing my students recognize their strengths and then use them to get a job done. I love it when they finally make the connection that they have it in them to learn these skills and follow through with these

projects,” she said.

Another amazing facilitator who has shown her hard work, growth, and passion for EAST is Mrs. Chelsea Hudson, Wynne Junior High School’s EAST facilitator. Before becoming a facilitator, Mrs. Hudson was known as Coach Hudson. She taught science and coached volleyball and basketball. She received a scholarship to Arkansas State University, where she originally planned to major in broadcast journalism but later switched majors to physical education. 

Her original goal in life was to go into video production and create digital media. This all changed when she discovered EAST. She did not know what EAST was, but she felt like it was a great opportunity to use her creativity to change and grow the program. During her time as an EAST facilitator, the WJHS EAST program has benefited tremendously. The kids encourage each other while she lets them take over their own learning and cheers them on from the sidelines. 

She learned that EAST matched her personality, and the longer she gets to be a part of EAST, the more she “falls in love with it.” The environment she has created is colorful, warm, and really makes you feel at home. She loves to push her kids to and past their limits so that they know that they are the only thing limiting themselves. She is very competitive, not only with other people, but also with herself.

She is always looking to improve and learn from past experiences. She has high expectations and standards that encourage productivity in the classroom. She wants every kid to understand EAST and love EAST the way she does because it has truly impacted her life. And above all of this, she loves her kids. She knows they have a passion.

She says that her classroom is productive because of a “domino effect” that occurs whenever one person starts to really make a difference. She said that during Conference preparation, when one of the kids saw how much fun everyone was having while working and submitting their projects, it “lit a fire” under everyone else in the classroom.

The entire community of Wynne is very supportive, and as soon as they started seeing social media and heard of their program, they just started reaching out for help from them. WJHS EAST's social media is a big part of its program. Coach Hudson finds it important to let the kids do things so they get a sense of productivity. This whole program thrives off of social media. It has had such a positive impact on them and the community. They get to inform and interact with their community partners and other EAST programs while also showing off and encouraging people to come to them if they need help. 

Coach Hudson’s program shows community involvement, and that is a huge part of EAST and what it is all about. Coach Hudson is making her program her own, and everyone should see how well this program is doing because of her and her kids!

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