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Last May, ReMax estate properties realtor Debbie Taylor started a pilot program to place senior volunteers in elementary schools around the peninsula to help out teachers beset with large classrooms and nominal school budgets.

But before that, she and co-founder Gunilla Goudeau of Coldwell Banker had conversations with a number of school principals to see what their school’s needs were.

One word kept coming up to the community-minded business ladies: Volunteers.

They sent out letters to more than 500 senior adults around the Palos Verdes Peninsula to see if anyone would like to volunteer and got back surprisingly good results.

Letters were more effective than e-mails blasts. Taylor was able to attend staff meetings at the schools and explain the pilot program, she said.

To that end, Goudeau and Taylor formed the nonprofit group Seniors & Students to match interested seniors to teachers and classrooms starting with Lunada Bay and Rancho Vista elementary schools.

“I put together a needs-assessment and brought it to the principals of elementary schools that involved reading to a child, listening and helping with homework, computer monitoring and generally helping the teacher directly with the students.”

Taylor said her prescription was a win, win, win for all involved and would like to get the word out to all the seniors in the community.

“The teachers got extra help, she said.” “The students got extra attention and the seniors have a rewarding experience working with the children. To connect with that generation, with that age of kids is not typical.”

There are no qualifications or skills involved in the Seniors & Students volunteer program. You don’t have to be a teacher only be able to carry out the teacher’s directives and take a TB test, Taylor said.

Retired educator Doug Nobel, one of the senior volunteers at Lunada Bay Elementary said working with the students has given his retirement added dimension. Last year he tutored a 3rd grade child from Moscow, Russia just learning to speak English. This year he is working with three, second grade boys on Fridays to boost their reading skills.

He said Barbara Brown, the teacher he was matched with, works very hard getting them to read, but a little help is all she needs.

“I’ve worked in the district for more than 30 years, and what I noticed were the kids who were readers did better in my class,” said Nobel, whose wife Ruth, along with her sorority sisters also tutor at Hawaiian Elementary School in Wilmington. “I want to give back because, being a former high school teacher, I know how important it is for them to read by second grade. The readers have better vocabularies, are more responsive, participate more and just know what’s going on in general.”

Rancho Vista Elementary School teacher Kathy Rodriquez who has taught school for nearly 20 years said her volunteer, Mary Helkett is like gold to her.

“The way it was originally explained to me is the volunteers don’t want to make copies, staple or grade papers, they want to interact with the students,” said Rodriquez, who will definitely consider this kind of volunteer work when she retires. “I have a couple little girls who Mary helps out with reading, writing and sometimes math. What’s nice is the kids have really bonded with her. Sometimes she even gets hugs.”

For more information, call Debbie Taylor at 310-994-4848 or visit debtaylorrealtor@gmail.com.

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