Students cannot lose writing and math labs


Alexis Behrens

Ms. Jungblut works with students in the math lab to help them prepare for finals.


Southern Lehigh High School is already proposing cost-cutting plans for the 2022-2023 school year. One involves terminating the Writing and Math Labs, two grant-funded remediative services implemented after the pandemic’s lapse in traditional education. But before taking this step, administration must realize that the programs are just as necessary now as they were at the beginning of the year. 

For one, almost a third of the high school’s student body benefits from the services on a regular basis. The Writing Lab teacher, Mr. Matthew Shaw, explains that he performed many instructional roles over the past year.

“For one-on-one tutoring, it will probably be a little over three hundred sessions by the end of the year. It’s a chance to sit down one-on-one and be able to pour over your writing in a really detailed way,” Mr. Shaw said. “I also go into English classes and help with lessons or writing conferences with students. I’ve taught essay writing lessons in social studies classes, as well as working with the social studies, English, and science departments to teach note taking lessons.”

Ms. Laura Jungblut, the Math Lab teacher, has been similarly invaluable. 

“Just this month so far, and keep in mind we’ve had Spring Break in that time, I’ve seen three hundred people. So I can see 400 people per month, easily,” Ms. Jungblut said. “There have been plenty of times when I have all these seats filled and it’s a struggle to help everyone who wants help. Having a second person that qualifies as a teacher that they can go to has been really helpful for [students] and the department also.” 

But helping to balance the schedules of Southern Lehigh’s overworked teachers is by no means the labs’ only benefit. Both Mr. Shaw and Ms. Jungblut expressed that they’ve seen tremendous educational growth through their programs.

“I certainly think that those who have come in have improved,” Mr. Shaw said. “I’ve had AP students who came in every time they got a grade back to ask how they can improve.”

“There have been some students who have gone from Ds or low Cs and then, you know, the next quarter when they were assigned to me, they had a high B,” Ms. Jungblut said. “We’ve definitely seen that jump in grades.”

Nikolaus Yundt, a junior who studies in the Math Lab, agrees that grades will decrease without it.

“Including my own,” Yundt said. “I need my Math Lab; it’s important.”

Furthermore, they’ve extended many educational opportunities as students prepare for standardized tests and college. Ms. Jungblut said that some students have asked for resources to ready themselves for the SATs and ACT. To fulfill this need, she posts daily on a Google Classroom site, which consists of extensive studying material for just about every math course the high school offers. She also maintains practice questions on her webpage on Southern Lehigh’s website.

Mr. Shaw said that he has also helped students write resumes and cover letters. During the college application season, he worked with many students to compose their best possible essays.

“There are certainly a lot of students, especially during the college application process, that came in either not sure of the essays that they wrote or essays that were too long. In that sense, I saw a lot of students, and can think of one in particular who came in three or four times,” Mr. Shaw said. “I held some informational sessions about college essays and writing workshops.”

Senior Alexandra Huaman said that she deeply benefited from own experience in the Writing Lab.

“I went to the writing lab to enhance my college essay. It was on a very personal topic and Mr. Shaw made me feel very comfortable while he read my work,” Huaman said. “I got some amazing feedback from him and truly believe I got into colleges because of what he added to my writing. I know that a lot of students share the same opinion and we are super sad about losing him next year.”

Despite all these benefits, the labs still come at a cost – and it’s an appealing one to cut. They were originally paid for by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, a one-year federal grant offered during the pandemic. Now that the grant has expired at the same time the school wishes to mitigate expenditures, the labs are among the casualties, and Mr. Shaw and Ms. Jungblut’s positions are ending. 

The Writing and Math Labs have paid off for nearly all high school students. We ought to pay into them. But if that is not to be, Mr. Shaw presents another possibility: he wishes to see the Writing Lab transition into being student-led. This would eliminate the need to pay staff, and allow opportunities for students to help their peers while themselves learning valuable writing skills.

“That is the best practice model,” Mr. Shaw said. “You eventually have student tutors who are trained to help their classmates.”

As for the Math Lab, Ms. Jungblut is not opposed to the idea. She explained that, in the status quo, many who use the program already use it in a collaborative manner. A student-led lab would not be an extreme departure from this, as long as it was well structured. Since her program is the busiest during Spartan periods, student tutors could be available during that time without having to miss their own classes. 

“There are opportunities that wouldn’t cost any more than the lab does now, to expand it so that it works with even more of the student body,” Mr. Shaw said. “We’ve been here to fulfill needs that I’m not sure the school knew it had. It’s good to have extra bodies to fulfill some of these needs.”

So, as Ms. Junglut concluded, she feels that she and Mr. Shaw still have work to do.

“After two years of being online, students need at least two years to catch up,” she said. “I feel like where we got to in just one year was definitely a big positive change,” she said, “but, throughout the year as more and more people experience it, the word of mouth and reputation has built up. Just when everyone’s getting excited about it, now it’s going to be gone.”