Some of the most appreciated adults in any school are the ones who don’t have to be there — the retired volunteers who help the teachers out.
The Gazette met with two of them last week.
After years as a cook at the high school, Bette Barnes wasn’t ready to leave the school system after she retired.
She’s back — and in the classroom now.
For the past two years, Barnes has been part of the Senior Lutheran Grandparent Association, spending 16 hours a week at Reede Gray Elementary School working one-on-one with students.
For her efforts, Barnes is paid $2.86 per hour, and lunch, barely enough to justify driving there.
“For people who are retired, it’s a good thing to get out of the house and do something worthwhile,” Barnes said.
Barnes spends four days a week at the school, from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Her schedule is worked out between the principal and teachers.
In kindergarten, Barnes helps the students tie their shoes and learn their telephone numbers and addresses.
For third graders, Barnes listens to them read stories and work on their spelling.
What are the students looking for?
“Individual attention,” Barnes said. “A few of them will push my hand away, and don’t want the help. But some will give me a hug before I can even say anything.”
What does Barnes get out of volunteering at the school?
“It’s so satisfying helping kids to grow in some small way,” she said.
“It’s been fun. I’ll see kids I helped last year, and they’ll see me in the hallway and say, ‘Hi, Grandma Bette!’ It’s so nice they remember.”
Retired teacher Elizabeth Schoer volunteers at St. John Lutheran School three days a week.
Three days a week, Schoer drives two of her grandchildren to school, then stays to help out until lunchtime.
How did Schoer get started volunteering?
“It just sort of happened,” she said. “I sent all my children here, and now my grandchildren are here. I love kids and just love to help out.”
After graduating from Lutheran high schools and colleges in New Ulm, Schoer taught in Vesta before moving to Michigan. There she taught third and fourth grades before moving back to Minnesota, where she farms with her husband near Wanda.
Does Schoer consider herself retired?
“Probably,” she laughs. “My husband likes me to help out on the farm.”
After starting in the early childhood room, Schoer was promoted to kindergarten this year.
Page 2 of 2 - “There were 23 students in the kindergarten room, and I heard the teachers needed an extra adult in the room,” said Schoer.
At one point Schoer was part of the Senior Lutheran Grandparent Association, and was paid a minimal amount to take part.
“But they needed more hours, and my husband wanted me to be helping on the farm,” she said.
Does Schoer enjoy volunteering?
“Oh yes! I do! Otherwise I wouldn’t do it!” she laughed.
What does she enjoy most?
“Seeing how the children grow through the years. The children I’m working with in kindergarten today I started with in early childhood. It’s fun to see how they’ve grown in the past three years.”