For many students, math is challenging. Read how volunteers like Clyde Goodlet are changing student attitudes to math.
For over 17 years, Joyce Guilbeault has been volunteering at Bells Corners Public School in Nepean. She considers working with children her calling in life and feels very much at home in the school environment. Read why here...
Kathy O'Hara is chief cook and bottle washer (aka the Ottawa School Breakfast Program Volunteer) at Fielding Drive Public School. Click here to read what it takes to rise well before dawn to prepare for the arrival of a bus full of hungry kids and to learn what motivates Kathy to volunteer in her community.
Mr. Bell’s ELD Class
In a typical volunteer interview, I do not get to interview the students or their teachers, but when I interrupted Mr. Bell’s class as he taught a lesson on empathy so that I could meet with Susan, one of several ELD volunteers in his class, the curious students wanted to be part of the action. Read the full story to hear what they had to say and to learn about Susan, their teacher Mr. Bell and Ms. McKeague the school volunteer coordinator at Ridgemont High. A special thank you to the students in Mr. Bell's class!
Read About Our Volunteers!
This is only a small sample of volunteers who humbly agreed to be featured on our website. If you would like to share your story we would proudly post it as an incentive for others to get involved. Click on the names to go directly to their story.
Bev Van Vliet
Central Orientation Class
Greely Public School
Carson Grove Public School
Cambridge Street Volunteers
|The Castle "Treasures"
York Street Volunteers
Featherston Public School
R. E. Wilson Public School
Teacher and volunteer
|Borden Ladner Gervais
Queen Elizabeth Public School
|Ottawa Police Services
Supporting several schools
|Your Name Here!|
The first thing you notice as you enter the OCDSB Central Orientation Class (COC) is the huge colourful map of the world on the wall representing the diverse backgrounds of the adult students seated at the round tables. Newcomers over the age of 18 who have never attended school in Canada have the opportunity to begin their education in the COC located on the second floor of the Adult High School on Rochester Street in Ottawa. At any one time, there are as many as 15 students from across the city attending the COC to master basic skills in English and Math. Once this is accomplished, many move on to the regular program at the Adult High School. Some of the COC students have never had the opportunity to attend school before moving to Canada and the COC is their first formal classroom experience. Christine Faucher and a team of dedicated volunteers make sure their first school experience is a good one!
Christine Faucher is the extraordinary teacher whose responsibility is it to assess, teach and mentor the COC students. To help meet her goals, Christine welcomes qualified, screened community volunteers through the Ottawa Volunteers in Education program (OVIE) into her classroom to provide invaluable individual attention to each student’s needs. Judy Kennedy and Bev Van Vliet, both retired educators, are only two of many volunteers who donate their time to support students in the COC.
Judy, a former teacher for 31 years says, “I missed teaching so much I just couldn’t stay away!” In 2005 soon after her retirement, Judy began her volunteer journey as a Kids on the Block puppeteer. Kids on the Block is a non-profit volunteer run organization that enlightens all children about disability awareness, educational differences and social concerns through puppets. Looking for additional opportunities in Ottawa schools, Judy applied to OVIE to become a Math tutor. Because of her sincere desire to help children, her glowing references, and her experience Judy was welcomed into the classroom as a volunteer year after year. Judy attended her last “little guy’s” graduation after being his tutor and mentor in grades 4, 5 and 6, meeting him during the lunch hour at the school he attended. Do the math—one-hour week x 32 weeks x 3 years! That is almost 100 hours of individual attention and instruction.
Looking for new challenges within the school system, Judy chose to volunteer in the OCDSB Central Orientation Class. Judy says it is a fascinating classroom; the students need to learn ‘everything about Canadian culture’. This challenge was what appealed to Judy, as she believes learning a new language with all its nuances is so important to the success of these young adults. “When students can tell a joke and everyone laughs —that’s a great measure of success! The students are mastering Canadianisms! If I had to put myself in their shoes—I would not survive the challenges of leaving behind everything you are familiar with to learn a new language and a new culture.”
Bev Van Vliet motivated students to love learning during her 35-year career as a high school librarian. After retiring in 2004, Bev began volunteering with OVIE in the library at Elmdale Public School, continuing to contribute her well-honed library skills to the system, and as a math tutor in the Central Orientation Class. She found the latter experience so enjoyable and fulfilling that she decided to volunteer in the English periods as well. Bev understands the needs of adult learners as she taught adults for 15 years at the Adult High School. She says the students who attend the Central Orientation Class are highly motivated and anxious to learn and progress. They remain in the COC until they acquire the skills and knowledge to move on to the Adult High School. The Central Orientation Classroom is a comfortable environment and a safe place to ask questions and learn English, math and other essential skills. Many of the students who have graduated to the Adult High School come back to the COC to eat lunch and visit Christine, the volunteers and their former classmates on a regular basis.
Volunteering in the COC is mutually beneficial as the learning goes both ways—Judy and Bev say the students open the door for them to expand their knowledge and appreciation of other cultures. This multicultural classroom is constantly evolving from one semester to the next as some students move on and others arrive. This means that there is always an interesting mix of more experienced students and new students. Needless to say, there is a continuing need for volunteer support and the rewards are endlessly enlightening. “It is wonderful to see the students gaining confidence. When they first come to the COC some of them are so quiet, shy and reluctant to participate; then by the end of the semester they confidently say ‘Hi, Bev. How are you today?’ when I arrive. It’s amazing to watch them progress. It is most rewarding to see their confidence blossom and grow.”
For the winter break holidays, Christine cooks a turkey with all the trimmings. The students share a traditional dish from their own country and the volunteers add to the feast with baking or treats. Christine teaches the students about Canadian holiday traditions and everyone, including the volunteers, shares their own experiences and traditions around the COC family dinner table set up in the classroom. “The Central Orientation Class is a very cozy and welcoming environment. By volunteering here, you get the warm, fuzzy feeling of helping. You really know that you are making a difference.”
If the light shining from both Judy and Bev’s eyes when they talk about their volunteer work at the COC is any indication of success—they get an A+.
Carolyn Orr has become the treasured volunteer “Grandmother” in Greely Public School’s Junior/Senior Kindergarten and grade 1 classrooms, since her retirement from the corporate banking world three years ago. Carolyn has a long history of volunteering in schools. For many years, she was a Junior Achievement mentor and was part of TD Bank’s early literacy program. Carolyn recalls, “I was a JA volunteer for as long as I can remember. I loved it! It was so much fun working with the children.” The JA classroom experience, her passion for early literacy, combined with her desire to use her Early Childhood Education college diploma completed many years ago, was the impetus for her to take the natural next step of volunteering in her local public school.
Greely is a busy rural school with 29 kindergarten students in one classroom. JK/SK teacher Christina Rathier remembers the day she found out Carolyn wanted to volunteer in her classroom two days a week, “Mrs. Orr provides such valuable support. Some children are as young as 3 years old! There are many tears the first week of school. I was so grateful to have help, I cried too!”
Carolyn was used to volunteering in schools during her JA mentoring days but she says schools have changed, “Schools are more hands on experiential learning now and the classroom is a busy place! Teachers need help from volunteers.” Carolyn assists in a variety of ways; an extra pair hands for arts and crafts, comforting a distraught child, to working individually with students to help develop their literacy and math skills. “Students are social butterflies at this age. The important one-on-one support I provide is so valuable in a busy classroom. I work with students individually, which builds their self-confidence and help them master new skills.”
The children adore Carolyn because she has a warm and friendly manner that helps this age group thrive and Carolyn adores the children she supports. With great joy she shares with me, “Volunteering is a huge ego boost because the children are always so happy to see me! I’m like their Grandmother—I get to do all the fun stuff. The children are like sponges at this age. I get so much out of volunteering. ”
Monique Lemire is the type of positive personality everyone wants to have in his or her circle. Retiring with a 33-year career in Human Resources with the OCDSB, Monique decided she wanted to volunteer her time supporting students at her neighbourhood school, Carson Grove Elementary, where she could put her facilitation skills to use with a different age group. After spending two hours with her, I am convinced she is truly a gifted coach and mentor, and wish all students could have a community volunteer like Monique assisting them at school.
Monique has been volunteering two full days a week for the past 3 years in Alison Bennett’s grade one classroom. To find the right fit, she tried volunteering in several different classrooms before she “clicked” with one particular teacher and age group of children. This is good advice for anyone considering becoming a school volunteer — keep volunteering with different age groups and teachers until you find your perfect match! It is about bringing out the best in everyone—the volunteer, the children and the teacher.
Monique supports the students in a variety of subjects but most importantly, she provides the invaluable one-on-one time each child needs to succeed. “Each child is at a different reading level and every week I practice their sight words with them. I also help them with mathematics, counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s up to 100.” She circulates in the classroom and intuitively knows when a child needs support with whatever they are working on; printing, artwork, science, etc., she goes on school trips and will do just about anything that is required to enhance the learning experience for children.
“I like to teach and motivate students. I can help get the struggling students to the same level as their classmates. It is so gratifying to know you are making a positive difference in a child’s life, both instructional and socially. I relate really well with the students and they respond well to me.” Monique’s enthusiasm and positive energy is contagious. The students adore her and are genuinely motivated to do well. She shared her secret for success with me. “It is very important for me to bond with the children, to learn about their interests so I can motivate them to learn. I ask questions to get them thinking about what they are learning. I help them develop their social skills, praise them and help build their self-esteem. Above all, I always end on a positive note!”
Monique also learns from the teacher and students every day. “I have as much to learn as they do.” She related a story about the first year she was volunteering. “It was the first week of school, a little child was crying and I didn’t know what to do! By watching the teacher acknowledge the child’s concerns then redirect the student back to the task, I learned a new skill I use all the time now. “I take my cues from the teacher and support the teacher by mirroring her behaviour. The students teach me daily not to lose sight of seeing the humour in life. They bring so much joy into my life.”
Monique’s relationship with the teaching staff at Carson Grove is one of mutual respect. She described to me with obvious happiness, “The teachers and school staff are so accepting of me. Everyone acknowledges you at Carson Grove by saying “Good Morning” “Hello” “How are you” whenever I am in the school. I love coming in to volunteer.” Monique and her partner teacher Alison Bennett work really well together too. They developed a plan to provide support to students in need of extra support and communicate daily to ensure they are meeting all students’ needs.
When asked how she measures success, Monique related a heart-warming story about a student that she had been coaching on social skills. She saw the boy receive a Valentine card during the classroom Valentine exchange. He said, “Thank you (so and so) for your Valentine. I really like the lollypop.” His success in giving a compliment made her heart swell with pride!
Monique ended her interview by summarizing, “Being a volunteer is the most positive and rewarding experience I’ve ever had, especially working in a school. I’m appreciative for the dedicated teachers I work with and to other staff who welcome me into their school. My volunteer experience has been most rewarding because it’s what I love to do—being around children passing on my learning to them. Even though you could say it’s giving back to the community, I can honestly say that this experience is giving right back to me. I’m not sure who benefits most—me or the students. I love being a volunteer and making a difference in a child’s life.”
Judie Haworth arrives at Cambridge Street Public School full of energy and purpose! For the past two years, she has been volunteering weekly assisting with Cambridge’s unique Borrow-A-Book program in the primary grades. Judie works with English Second Language students helping increase their reading skills. For example, a student may know the meaning of a word in their first language but they need additional one-on-one support to explain the concepts in English. Judie, a retired teacher, explains that she and other volunteers, help the students understand concepts, stimulate their deeper thinking skills, and help them make inferences to their prior knowledge. Volunteers provide that valuable one-on-one attention teachers would love to give to every student in their class. Judie loves volunteering at Cambridge; she radiates enthusiasm and a passion for learning that inspires the children to do well. Judie says, “The children are always a chuckle. They find humour in the stories they read. They make me laugh.” Thank you Judie, for making a difference at Cambridge Street Public School.
Cambridge Street Public School has 178 students, 114 are English language learners. The school is rich with ethnic and linguistic diversity. More than half of the students attend additional language educational programs on the weekends. Fifty-four percent of kindergarten children are vulnerable on one or more aspects of School Readiness. Cambridge’s Borrow-A-Book program ensures that children go home each night with a book that is “Just-Right” for their reading level.
Ruth Stewart Verger, a current ONFE Capital Educators’ Award Finalist, created the Borrow-A-Book program designed for students “at-risk” in Grade 1, Grade 2, 3 and Kindergarten. This daily reading program helps students improve their reading skills at an increased rate. Ms. Stewart-Verger, an ESL teacher, is also the school volunteer coordinator. She manages a team of 38 community volunteers who give their time willingly to support students at Cambridge. Along with her colleagues, she believes “Only with volunteers can we provide what our kids need.”
Everyone in the Cambridge Street community congratulations Ms. Stewart-Verger on her Capital Educators’ Award Nomination and wishes her good luck at Edugala on May 23rd! (https://www.onfe-rope.ca/programs/capital-educators-awards)
Just beginning their journey, Graham Preston and Joe Sinclair are new volunteers at Cambridge Street Public School. Graham is considering his options for a career after university and Joe is a new teacher graduate practicing his new skills. The students enjoy their playfulness and both young men are excellent role models for the boys in the school.
The “Castle” School
York Street Public School is large, architecturally beautiful heritage school located in Lowertown Ottawa in the Laurier/King Edward/Cobourg area. The school is celebrating their 91st anniversary throughout the 2012-2013 school year. As a school in the core of the city, York offers the regular English program to an exceptionally diverse population. Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6 pupils come primarily from the immediate neighbourhood. Grade 7 and 8 students come from a number of feeder schools, primarily RE Wilson, Queen Mary and Viscount Alexander Public School.
York Street is one of the first OCDSB schools to offer the Early Learning Program (All Day) for Kindergarten students. In addition to the JK to 8 program, the school is also a site for the OCDSB's Adult ESL program. This busy school is overseen by Principal Laurel Tye and her team of committed educators and support staff. York Street students are also supported by a large team of community volunteers who donate their time, talents, skills and knowledge on a weekly basis through ONFE’s Ottawa Volunteers in Education program (OVIE).
This story highlights only a few of the special people in the ‘castle’.
A few years ago, York decided to organize a science fair. This would give grade 7 and 8 students an opportunity to practice their newfound knowledge of science by showing personal creativity and hands-on ability in designing and building science projects for display in the school gym. Experience quickly showed that enthusiasm was not enough. Most students had difficulty selecting practical, do-able projects from the wealth of material available on the internet or in books. Many also had little experience with designing, assembling, building and carrying out experimental projects. School staff clearly did not have the time to help, and the first fair showed that mentoring and guidance were the keys to success. In addition, since the fair took place during school hours, no one on staff had time to judge the projects.
This is where OVIE came in. A volunteer already helping with science at York agreed to mentor students in their efforts, and four other volunteers with science backgrounds were found to act as judges. As a result, this year's fair was a resounding success.
Ms. Naomi Lindstein is York Street’s Learning Resource Teacher and English Second Language Teacher. Together with community volunteer George Rejhon, Ms. Lindstein organized this year's York Street Science Fair.
George Rejhon has been a volunteer in several Ottawa schools through the OVIE program since 2001. George has been a tutor/mentor at Lisgar, Rideau and Colonel By high schools. George’s education and experience include: B.Sc. UNB, M.Sc. McGill four years as a geologist; 30 years as a foreign service officer—needless to say George has a lot to offer! George and Ms. Lindstein contacted OVIE to recruit judges for the Science Fair. From our extensive database of over 1,600 volunteers OVIE was able to meet their volunteer needs by matching ‘perfect fit’ volunteers, Dr. Soli Bamji (research scientist), Camille Francisco (B.Sc.), Glorianna Desrochers (B.Ed.) and Safaa Sabbah (M.A. Sci.) as volunteer judges.
A very busy Mr. Andrew Wheeler is York’s grade 7/8 lead science teacher, math teacher and music teacher. He teaches one grade 7 and one grade 8 science class and is responsible for the science lab and all science equipment. In his role as music teacher, he recently asked OVIE to find him volunteers that could assist with the wind section of his school band. OVIE has a database of screened community volunteers so we were able to find the perfect match for Mr. Wheeler—Rochelle Fraser. Rochelle is currently completing an Honours B.A. with a Specialization in Music and minor in Arts Administration at the University of Ottawa and is experienced teaching wind instruments! Rochelle assists Mr. Wheeler weekly at the 8:00am band rehearsals—that’s dedication!
Volunteer Mary Anne Trenker is one of eight Heart of the City Piano Program volunteers teaching piano at York Street. The Heart of the City Piano Program, based in Western Canada, provides piano lessons to over 300 underprivileged students by bringing volunteer teachers into their schools. The U of O Kiwanis Circle K Club, a community service club sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa, started the first branch of the program outside Western Canada in 2009. To start the program off, Alfred Publishing and the Leading Note Music Store provided music books while Steve's Music on Rideau Street, Yamaha Music Canada, and a number of community members donated keyboards. Don Pinard Piano Moving kindly assisted with moving donated pianos.
OVIE recruits and screens volunteers for the Heart of the City Piano program in Ottawa. Volunteers each commit to teaching three 20-minute private lessons, once a week, during the school day. The lesson times are very flexible and are chosen to fit the volunteer's availability. As you can see by the photo, students thrive on the one on one lessons and mentoring by the volunteers and volunteers enjoy the fruits of their labours at the year-end concert organized by Heart of City. In addition to Mary Anne, volunteer piano teachers at York include; Kristin Chow, Brian Paige, Valeria Dimitrova, Darya Gorodnicha, Zuzana Novak, Michèlle St. Pierre, and Joseph Della Malva.
(Heart of the City welcomes donations of electronic pianos in excellent condition only as they do not require tuning. Contact email@example.com).
Grade 8 teacher Mr. Bruce McNicoll is welcoming foreign student Jiamin (Sophie) Kang as a new volunteer to assist in his classroom. Jiamin is a Chinese foreign exchange student doing a Master’s degree at the University of Ottawa who is assisting ESL students. Mr. Carriere is looking for more ESL trained volunteers if you are interested please contact OVIE.
Featherston Public School Volunteers
Don Laver studied music in Edmonton, Spokane Washington, and in Montreal, which lead to a career as vocal soloist, percussionist, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Master of Ceremonies and Tour Administrator for the Canadian Forces Band. Don has performed around the world, including performances for John F. Kennedy and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
Mr. Laver began volunteering at Featherston over a decade ago and founded a drum circle, which brought together various cultural elements of the school, and became the BONGO BANG BOOM DRUM BAND, named by a founding band member Suleka Ali. This group celebrates the world music experience, performing on a wide variety of world instruments.
Mr. Laver then founded a percussion group for junior students, the FIDDLESTICKS, to develop percussion skills in grades 4,5 and 6--shown above. For the Full Story about both Don Laver and Harold Pretty clck here.
When Felicia Persaud was a grade 11 and 12 student in the Music Program at Canterbury High School, she directed the Featherston Jazz Band. She now attends Ottawa U., with the high goal of becoming a music educator. This talented young student has gained the reputation as a hard-working and encouraging director. She sets the bar high, as she plays 11 instruments! Felicia comes to Featherston Dr. P.S. four times per week to run rehearsals and sectionals, and to do administrative work in support of the music program. Impressive! Thank you Felicia and good luck with your music career.
Harold Pretty is a former RCMP band member. Harold volunteers at Featherston Public School--the same school his own children and grandchildren attended. Weekly Harold comes in early to conduct the Jazz band and give tuba lessons to band members. He also volunteers at Canterbury High School, and South Carlton High School where he uses his professional librarian skills to organize the school's music library. Thank you Harold for all you do to motivate students! Click here to see Harold and his young Protégé in action!
Mike Carroll volunteers weekly at Robert E. Wilson Public School as a math tutor. When he retired Mike's wife said, "Go do something useful!" So Mike contacted ONFE and has been volunteering for 11 years making himself indispensible as a math tutor for approximately 300 students over the past decade. Thank you Mike! That's a lot of math!
"In 2007, I was a volunteer with Ottawa Volunteers in Education. I was just finishing the final year of my undergrad and was interested in applying to teachers college. I was looking to gain classroom experience that I could use for my application. I was placed at a school close to my house, and was able to start right away. The school accommodated my busy schedule, and the teacher I was placed with ended up helping me write my application for teachers college and provided me with a reference letter. I enrolled at Ottawa University the following year. I have been a teacher now for five years, and I believe that the Volunteers in Education program helped me gain the experience I needed to break into the teaching profession". Caitlin Dollimore OCSDB Teacher
For the past four years, many of the young children from Manor Park Public School have had the great joy of spending one-on-one time reading with several outstanding women, known to the school as members of the Diplomatic Spouses Association. These women devote one hour on a weekly basis to read to students in Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3 classes as a part of the OttawaReads program. OttawaReads helps to raise literacy levels by engaging young children in the joy of reading.
Christa Bauer, Grade 2&3 teacher at Manor Park School, describes the pleasure of Julie Jacobson and Jane Clark’s company who read to her classes on a weekly basis. “The benefits of being read to are many, but the joy of just being able to relax and listen can't be measured or quantified. The children look forward each week to time with Jane and Julie. The on-going relationship we've had with Ottawa Reads has also had other amazing benefits. Each year, Julie invites her class of listeners to a lunch and garden tour at her home away from home—the Residence of the US Ambassador to Canada. Julie and Janie are giving these children memories to last a lifetime." We cannot thank the members of the Diplomatic Spouses enough – Julie Jacobson, Jane Clark, Sarah Jennings, Sue Willis and Jane MacTavish Robinson. Thank you for fostering this community relationship and for imparting your love of reading with the students at Manor Park Public School.
Const. Judith Drover-Janes and her colleagues, read weekly one-on-one with Grade 3 students in five Ottawa schools. As emergency service providers in our City, the Ottawa Police Services not only ensuring public safety, they are leaders and role models with respect to helping the most vulnerable people in our community. Ottawa Police has participated in OttawaReads program for the past six years with one of the largest partnerships; 22 volunteers reading at five local schools with a commitment of one hour each week. Chief Bourdeleau is one of the volunteer readers!
David W. Scott is Co-Chairperson of the Ottawa office of Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG). When the firm became national, David was the inspirational force behind the idea to create a national philanthropic program, and because of David’s initiative, BLG Reads to Kids was created in September 2003. BLG launched the program to support literacy for young children in schools located in economically disadvantaged areas across the country. In Ottawa, the regional office established a partnership with ONFE’s OttawaReads corporate volunteer early literacy program to deliver a reading program at Queen Elizabeth Public School. The goal of the program is to make a difference in children's lives by encouraging them to develop a love for reading and to enhance early literacy skills.
As a result of David Scott’s vision, since 2003, approximately 750 young students at Queen Elizabeth School have been read to 27,000 times by over 100 caring BLG volunteers reading an estimated 4,000 hours one-on-one with students who typically are just learning English. BLG employees have fundraised and donated over 1,200 books (an approximate value $10,000), to individual students so they could own books to take home to read. Building on David’s example in 2010, Jane Bachynski and Karen Thompson, from BLG and Sheila Jenkins, former OttawaReads program manager, created Give Back to School Day. OttawaReads readers volunteer one day per year to help beautify Queen Elizabeth School—painting murals, gardening, building shelves, etc. building school pride.
BLG was the recipient of the Ottawa Child & Youth Friendly Growing Up Great Business Award in 2012. BLG currently has 37 active volunteers reading at Queen Elizabeth Public School.