Volunteers help students, teachers

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 10/8/96.

Take a walk through Paynesville's elementary school. Look in on the kids eating in the cafeteria. Roam around the playground.

The teachers and regular school employees have a little extra help. Volunteers from the community are helping during recess. They're watching kids and taking some of the load off of teachers' shoulders. In the lunchroom, volunteers help kids get their condiments.

Phyllis Putzke, Paynesville, is in charge of getting these volunteers. She's the volunteer coordinator for the Paynesville Area Schools. She works with Steve Brisendine in the Community Education office.

School board members Fern Roberg and Deb Glenz started getting volunteers involved in the elementary school last year. The volunteers helped in the lunchroom and on the playground.

According to Brisendine, the school district "knew the need was there" and had talked about the position for a few years, but didn't know who should be responsible for the position.

The district and the Community Education department are splitting the costs, "50-50," Brisendine said.

"This position (volunteer coordinator) could very well become the most important job in the school," Brisendine said.

Putzke's position is only ten hours per week right now. The position may be expanded in the future. Right now, she has her hands full and keeps busy during those ten hours.

She is concentrating on the elementary school volunteers right now. There is "plenty to do right there," she said. Putzke works mainly out of her home, where she has a computer. She does share a room with another teacher. She can "come and go" as she needs to. The room has a phone, but no computer, so Putzke spends more time near the computer.

Putzke has sent letters home with elementary kids, requesting playground and lunchroom volunteers. In these letters, parents are asked to volunteer three times per year.

So far, Putzke's had a good response to her requests. Her volunteers are primarily women. She said that more men may come in during the winter months, since there isn't so much seasonal work, like construction and harvesting, when the weather is colder. People who have only one day off during the week will come in and help in the lunchroom or on the playground on their day off, Putzke said.

She wants to get people volunteers into the classroom, where they can share their skills and knowledge with students. She will try to match volunteers with the jobs they want to do.

There were many volunteers in the schools "a number of years ago," Brisendine said. The schools got away from that. The districts thought "we knew what we were doing" and didn't need any volunteer help, but "that's not true," he said.

"Students learn a lot more" when more people are helping, Brisendine said. If a volunteer is correcting papers, then the teacher will have more time for his or her students.

"Parental involvement in education needs to grow," Brisendine said. "(Volunteering) is a good way to get parent involvement."

Anyone who wants to volunteer can call Brisendine or Putzke at the Community Education office, 243-7570.

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