The outside world knows them as Barb Fellows-Krauss and Dale Krauss. But inside the walls of West Godwin Elementary, they are Grandma Barb and Grandpa Dale, the caring couple that spends several hours a week helping kindergarten teacher Lynn Bradford.
Grandma Barb is Bradford’s mom. Since retiring 10 years ago, she has spent her free time doing tasks around the school, from putting books away to helping at lunch time to teaching young students their ABCs When she married Krauss three years ago, he also started volunteering at school.
“I love having my mom here,” Bradford said. “Not only do I get to see her more, but she really makes my job easier. She and Grandpa Dale help during testing time, or with kids who need a little extra work in reading or math. My mom and Grandpa Dale are so full of love that my kids can’t wait to work with them.”
During a recent session, the couple called on students, one by one, to review “popcorn words,” which are words they should be concentrating on that “pop” up often in their reading.
“These are new ones, ‘go’ and ‘to.’ You did very well,” Grandpa Dale tells Aiyana Grider-Chambers. Excited, Aiyana sounds out the words that will build her vocabulary for years to come.
“Open your book. Read the ones that you know,” instructs Grandma Barb nearby. “Do you know this one?” “ ‘Go,’ ” Emely Bermudez-Hernandez reads.
“Very good. You get a sticker,” says Grandma Barb. “Which one would you like?”
“This one,” Emely says, pointing at a purple sticker.
While exercises like this might seem simple, they help with reading and allow students the one-on-one attention they need, Principal Steve Minard says. “As you can see with Grandma and Grandpa, the kids get to know them, they create a bond with them and look forward to seeing them. And in turn, volunteers get to know those kids, and it is important for them to come back to check with them.”
At West Godwin, grandmas, grandpas, moms, dads and more can volunteer through programs like Schools of Hope and One Wyoming 1 on 1. Both require weekly meetings with students, Minard says. Another program, Watch D.O.G. Dads (Dads of Great Scholars) encourages fathers and grandfathers to spend a day at the school with their children.
Grandma Barb says the reason these programs succeed in helping students is simple: Children just like to have people pay attention to what they’re doing.
“This support helps the child grow both academically and behaviorally,” Minard says. “Our mentor programs are geared to at-risk populations for kids who have higher needs, but everyone can benefit from this type of program.”
Grandma Barb and Grandpa Dale agree. “Sometimes they really don’t know much when they get here, and you see them learn the letters, learn how to read,” Grandma Barb says. “It is very rewarding.”
She encourages everybody to volunteer, especially grandfathers, who are scarce. “They eat grandpas up because they don’t have that many grandpas around,” she says.
“If you have extra time, just go in to your local school and say ‘I have an hour a week, what can I help with?’ Some of these children come to school knowing no English and they can’t spell their names. You see them learn, get better at reading. Children get to learn, and you get to help them. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Visit your school or check out its website to see how your talents could benefit your school. Information about the One Wyoming 1 on 1 mentoring program