Athol Elementary is Open to Volunteers
School is tops with teachers and students and volunteers make a difference
Financial worries dominate the education scene these days, as taxes fall and budgets are being cut. There are, though, several things that we can be proud of in our school systems. Some schools seem to excel while others are mired down with personnel issues and poor community relations.
Athol Elementary is not one of the latter. This award-winning school is tops with both students and teachers. With the perception that union discussions suggest a move away from dedication toward self serving goals, that doesn’t appear to be the case at Athol either. Two programs that stand out, are America Reads, and diversity training. The teaching staff appear to be dedicated, caring people that exceed community expectations. Recently, the school put on a “Culture Fair,” in which various booths were set up representing many countries. Some showed how to write in various languages, including Japanese and Chinese script.
The reading program is headed up by a thirteen-year veteran of teaching, Kacy Williams, with the last eight being at Athol. Armed with volunteers from the community, special attention is given to those students that need extra practice in reading. The one-on-one attention is a bonus for a struggling reader and great personal relationships are developed. Kacy ensures students are in class during core subject area instruction and designs schedules that allow for extra reading time in the day with the volunteers.
Every student is different and has different needs. It would appear though that the real winners are those who volunteer their time. Some volunteers are recruited from the Retired Senior Volunteer Program headed up by Cherie Saltness. America Reads isn’t the only program that has volunteers, though. Athol Elementary has about 60 volunteers that assist in class, run copies, and give personal tutoring and a myriad of other jobs. These volunteers are an integral part of the school climate which supports students. One such volunteer, Peggy Cutler, is in her 21st year of volunteering at the school. That’s longer than anyone else, volunteer or paid employee with the possible exception of Marlys Blagden, Administrative Assistant. Ms. Blagden tells us some of these volunteers come weekly while others come as their schedules allow. Their duties are varied and are not limited to any one area.
One such successful incentive program is that of Accelerated Reader in which students read books that match their reading level and test for comprehension on the computer. These reading comprehension exercises provide practice opportunities for students at their appropriate skill level for all ages. While 60 volunteers sounds like a lot, more are needed. Those who are retired and have spare time and want to get more of a reward than the kids get, should call their closest school to find out how they can contribute.