Virginia: Patrick County Retired Teachers Association
Retired teachers of Patrick County are still on the job, so to speak. Through their reading promotion and backpack programs, Patrick County Retired Teachers Association (PCRTA) members make sure that they stay involved in the lives of local students, contributing 983 hours and serving 5,286 children in this year alone.
Members served as reading tutors in classrooms and assisted students with Virginia reading assessments. Members also embraced Read Across America week by donning The Cat in the Hat costumes and reading to children. Along with the local library, they provided free books to all county prekindergarten students and fourth-graders. Volunteers delivered books to each elementary school and read to students. Then, each child received a book of his or her choice. After-school programs were held in churches, and volunteers provided snacks and time for homework and reading activities.
The group’s major project was a partnership with an elementary school for a “Reading Buddies Reading Day and Book Exchange.” Third-grade students had the opportunity to read to groups of kindergarten students. Active and retired teachers set up a book exchange, where students donated gently used books. In turn, they earned credit enabling them to select books for their personal use. This project helped students learn the meaning of giving back while creating an interest in reading.
PCRTA members also participated in a backpack program for needy children, providing students with food supplies for weekends. Volunteers picked up backpacks from the school, bought food items to fill them and returned the backpacks to the children on Friday afternoons.
The efforts of these volunteers made a lasting impact on the lives of youth — whether at home, in school or in the community at large.
Washington: Chelan/Douglas School Retirees Association
Some people are born for heroism; some have heroism thrust upon them. And some, like the volunteers of Chelan/Douglas School Retirees Association, respond to a newsletter notice. “Wanted: Instant Heroes!” was the plea for help. It came from a group of creative school retirees who had learned of state program cuts affecting Rock Island Elementary, a school in a community with an 88 percent poverty level. This meant there would no longer be funding for many of the professionals providing one-on-one reinforcement for the students. A group from the Chelan/Douglas School Retirees Association committed to work with the school to address this challenge and fill the educational gap.
The Rock Island School Tutoring Project was set in motion. The clever notice was included in the association’s newsletter inviting members to participate. Twelve volunteers responded to the request and reported for a training session. Volunteers worked with first- and second-grade students for 2½ hours a day reinforcing reading and math skills.
Volunteers developed special relationships with students and provided a positive and fun experience for all involved. A current teacher at the elementary school remarked, “The volunteers are a bright spot in each of my student’s day.” Thanks to the association’s heroic volunteers, the students of Rock Island Elementary have a better chance of success in the face of life’s challenges.
Washington: Sno-Isle Unit No. 22 School Retirees Association
When a community need arises, the members of Sno-Isle Unit No. 22 School Retirees Association are there to fill it. They embody the spirit of Margaret Fuller’s quote, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” To do well in school and to succeed in life, children must learn to read. Volunteers started a pen pal program in the Marysville School District in Washington to encourage English Language Learner (ELL) students to read and write.
As an introduction, the retired teachers made large posters with pictures and descriptive phrases of themselves. They delivered their posters to the school and picked up similar ones made by their student pen pals.
In the course of the year, students and their pen pals selected books and read them at the same time. The pen pals wrote each other letters about the books. To encourage a more fluid dialogue, the retired teachers asked the children specific questions about the stories. Students shared their favorite parts, thoughts on specific passages or pictures. They often included details about their own experiences or what they had done during the weekend.
The pen pal program had a great impact on the children and the retired teachers. Many students asked if they could continue writing to their pen pals over the summer. The program helped improve students’ reading and writing skills while forging friendships between the volunteers and Marysville’s future leaders.