Seniors and students learn from each other in Woodbury, Bethlehem schools

The following appeared in The Republican-American - https://www.rep-am.com/

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Seniors and students learn from each other in Woodbury, Bethlehem schools

 

BY STEVE BIGHAM REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

WOODBURY – Region 14 schools are inviting senior citizens to volunteer their time and share their skills and experiences with students in Woodbury and Bethlehem schools.

It is part of a new program organized by Superintendent of Schools Joseph Olzacki, who believes seniors are precious commodities with a wealth of knowledge from whom kids can benefit.

“They have the experiences, the stories and the talents that our kids need, and we need them to come in and be a part of this education because we’re all in this together,” Olzacki said.

The program, the superintendent said, is intended to give seniors the opportunity to teach children to read or to read better, tutor students in mathematics, and assist in classrooms or in after-school programs.

The teaming of senior citizens and children is a natural and effective combination, Olzacki said. Schools get free, reliable, dedicated help during a time when pressure to boost students’ performance is growing, and shrinking budgets have resulted in less help in the classroom. And the volunteers can offer grandparent-type nurturing that many of children crave, he said.

WOODBURY -- Wendy Mutter poses for a photo after reading to Region 14 students as part of a celebration of children's author Dr. Seuss earlier this school year. District officials are hoping to recruit senior citizens to volunteer on a regular basis in Woodbury and Bethlehem schools, helping students with reading and math.Steve BighamRepublican-American

Wendy Mutter poses for a photo after reading to Region 14 students as part of a celebration of children’s author Dr. Seuss earlier this school year. District officials are hoping to recruit senior citizens to volunteer on a regular basis in Woodbury and Bethlehem schools, helping students with reading and math. Steve Bigham/Republican-American

 

“These kids are missing out on all the stories that you learn from that won’t be around forever,” Olzacki said.

Woodbury First Selectman Barbara Perkinson praised the new program and said she hopes local seniors will get on board.

“I think this is a marvelous idea. It gets grandparents and senior citizens back into the school to see exactly what is going on and how much learning is going on,” she said.

Each year, Region 14 schools host Veterans Day ceremonies that include locals who served in the military and, in some cases, have served on the front lines during warfare.

Many of them share their experiences with students eager to listen. School officials are hoping this new program will give seniors a similar opportunity to be part of the schools throughout the year.

“A simple conversation, as I have found, can start a spiral of wonderful learning,” Olzacki said.

All volunteers are subject to a background check.

Seniors interested in volunteering can call Maggie Gildea at the Region 14 Central Office at 203-263-5508.