By MICHAEL NUNES
JAMESBURG – For most seniors citizens, it has been decades since they have set foot inside an elementary school classroom.
In Jamesburg, it seems this could change.
“In the greater community, why not bring in our greatest resource, [which is] our seniors?” said Principal Pamela Hernandez of John F. Kennedy Elementary School.
“[Now] that they’re retired, they have a little more time on their hands to come in and work with our kids.”
Teachers at the school, located on Front Street, are putting senior citizens in the classroom to help students with their reading skills.
The program, called Growing Readers, is the brainchild of first grade teacher Ruth Orama and kindergarten teacher Amy Wallace. Even though the program is in its beginning stages, students in their two classes as well as volunteers seem to be enjoying the program.
“They’re so happy to be in the classroom and the kids just light up when their reading buddy enters the room,” said Wallace, who went on to say the pair was inspired by a similar program while attending a teachers convention and thought it would work for their students.
With a volunteer in the classroom, Wallace said, it allows for more one-on-one guidance for students who struggle with some aspects of reading.
Thanks to the numerous senior living homes located in neighboring Monroe, there is no shortage of volunteers.
“Knowing that there was such a large population of 55-plus communities in Monroe, we kind of wanted to tap into that to help our struggling readers,” Wallace said, who continued that children are seen twice a week by a volunteer.
Before being able to interact with students, teachers train seniors to be able to teach students basic reading skills. According to Wallace, there are currently 12 senior volunteers signed up to help students with their reading skills. Another six are currently waiting to be trained.
The process takes around an hour.
“We train our tutors to work on sight words and work on reading strategies and writing just to build on children up on their literacy skills,” Wallace said.
For Alan Mitzner, who has volunteered with the program since it started, he feels this was a way great way to be able to help the new generation.
“I live in an adult community and there was a little paragraph in the community newspaper about them needing help and I just thought it sounded like a very good idea to help students that might need a little more help reading,” Mitzner said.
For teachers, they are grateful to have volunteers, like Mitzner, to help students.
“They are as honored to be here as we are to have them here,” Wallace said.
Contact Michael Nunes at firstname.lastname@example.org.