Ahwatukee Foothills resident and retired teacher Karen McComish knows how important volunteers can be inside a classroom.
“The children just love adult attention,” she said. “They crave it. They would know the volunteers are coming without me even telling them.”
McComish retired in 2009 from being a second-grade teacher at Kyrene de las Lomas Elementary School. When her longtime friend Linda Jochim took her out to lunch to celebrate her retirement, she had something to ask. She asked if McComish would help other teachers get volunteers to work with the children. Because McComish knows the school and community well, she was able to help.
Kyrene de las Lomas is a Title 1 elementary school in the Kyrene School District, meaning at least one third of the school qualifies for free breakfast and free lunch. Many of the kids are bused in from the other side of South Mountain. The school has grown to be very large. They now have about six classes of each grade.
“I would say it’s the most special school on this side of the highway,” Jochim said. “The kids need the most help.”
Volunteers are asked to give up one or two hours a week every week to spend with the kids practicing math or reading. The kids are divided into small groups so they can have one-on-one time with the teacher and the volunteer. They play games to practice their skills.
McComish found many of her volunteers through the Ahwatukee Recreation Center, local church groups and Connecting to Serve, which Jochim is the community liaison for. The volunteers she has gained have told their friends and so the program has grown.
The majority of the volunteers are retirees who have the time to serve the kids.
“These people are so active,” McComish said. “They’re just busy retirees and such a blessing. They think Lomas is a great place and the children are the grandest and the teachers are spectacular.”
McComish tries to keep the same volunteer with the same teacher and same class so that they can get to know the children and the teacher. She asks her volunteers what age group they’d like to be with and which subject they would like to help with.
Since Kyrene de las Lomas has seen so much success they’d like to continue their program. Other schools within the district, like Kyrene de los Ninos, would like a volunteer program of their own, Jochim said.
Volunteers must be finger printed and background checked before they can become a volunteer. Then, McComish emails the teachers with the volunteer’s availability to see which class they can fit with. McComish introduces the teacher and the volunteer and they go from there. To become a volunteer, send an email to McComish ator call her at (480) 496-6943.
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