Sure, you’ve heard about the retirees who are master naturalists, master gardeners, and long-term volunteers at Tye Preston Memorial Library — but did you know Comal County has the biggest Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) chapter in the United States?
Cindy Peterman is in charge of one of RSVP’s outreaches — she serves as Comal County’s America Reads program coordinator — and she’s hoping seniors who read this article will consider reading books to Canyon Lake elementary students, kindergarten through second grade, who need a little help with their reading this school year.
An orientation and kickoff luncheon for returning and new volunteers is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4 at Comal Independent School District Board Room, CISD Service Center, 1404 IH-35 North, New Braunfels.
Time commitment is minimal — volunteers who work with a single child spend just 30 minutes a week at Startzville and Mountain Valley elementary schools. They read to their student, ask the student to read to them, then review sight words. Or, if the child is restless, volunteers are advised to just sit and listen.
“We are the part that helps the teacher with the student who needs just a little more attention to take that step and become more confident in their reading skills,” Peterman said. “Our goal is to get them all on the proper reading level by the time they reach second grade. We’re just one tool that the schools can use.”
She said volunteers are encouraged to email teachers about their students’ progress.
“When you have 20-plus students it’s very difficult to have that one-on-one and to develop some deeper relationship,” Peterman said. “The volunteers are able to say ‘well, it seems like he or she is having difficulty with this or that.'”
Comal ISD schools like America Reads because its volunteers — who include retired teachers, physicians, airline pilots — are extremely reliable.
All supplies and books are provided by RSVP America Reads, which is funded by United Way of Comal County and the Corporation for National and Community Services.
As an extra bonus on Wednesday, volunteers will hear from Canyon Lake author Peggy Marceaux, a former Smithson Valley High School English teacher whose children’s book, Beak Speak, uses the dialogue of young chickens with language errors, bias and stereotypes, to demonstrate common speaking errors.
Peterman said she’s expecting a big turnout because there’s a great sense of civic pride and duty in Comal County.
“There’s just a lot of people who like to serve,” she said. “Before I was doing this before I retired, I was the owner of Star Awards, we made plaques and trophies, really I was working with all of the service organizations, in the churches, in the schools, community things. It’s just phenomenal how many people have the willingness and the desire to serve their fellow citizens.
“I think we are an exceptional community.”
For more information, e-mail CindySPeterman@gmail.com or call 830-625-1835.
Arrival Time for New Volunteers — 9 a.m.
Arrival Time for Returning Volunteers — 10 a.m.
9 – 11 a.m. – Orientation for new volunteers.
10:30 a.m. — Returning volunteers
11 a.m. – Welcome, introduction to guest speakers: Stacee Collins, a counselor at Carl Schurz Elementary, “The Importance of Adult Role Models”; Marceaux.
Noon — Lunch, with music by Hill Country Chorus Barbershop Quartet (Dr. Ray Elbel, RSVP volunteer on Seele Elementary campus, is a member)
Teacher Comments from 2018-19 School Year
“My volunteer made RSVP time so fun and enjoyable for my two students. She would bring books based on their interests and really invested her time and energy into doing her best to help my students improve and foster a love for reading. Smiley face!” — Ms. Brandi Hall, Mountain Valley Elementary School third-grade teacher
“They (my students) are excited to read both in and when they get pulled out! The extra practice really helped them out. It (RSVP program) was perfectly run.” — Aaron “Mr. A” Aniroodh, Startzville Elementary first-grade teacher
“This program makes a great impact on our first-graders. One-on-one tutoring helps improve reading skills and provides word-attack strategies immediately. It also increases self-confidence. Continue the program next year.” — Mrs. Kelly Cheddie, Startzville Elementary Kindergarten teacher