by Victor Lopez
MIDLAND--It's what every teacher dreams of, an extra pair of eyes, ears and hands in the classroom. Midland is taking part in a program that places close to 60 helpers on campuses across the school district.
Anyone who is a teacher or a grandparent will surely be able to relate to this. Putting a grandparent figure in the classroom is a stroke of genius. To quote a well known phrase, "it's the toughest job you'll ever love."
"It's amazing. I can't even begin to put a price on how much she helps out in the classroom and with the kids," Barbara Brown, a second grade teacher at Washington Elementary in Midland, said.
Lorene Marion was looking through the wanted ads in the paper when she across an ad about the Foster Grandparents Program. She signed up and two years later, she's still at Washington Elementary.
"I'm here basically to help them with their reading difficulties, to help them to develop a love of reading, like I have and to become avid readers. Now, if they needed help in other areas, I can help them there. Some of the kids may not have a grandparent figure, so I can be a mentor to them if I need to be and also give them special attention, spoil them, if you will," Marion said.
Brown says Granny Lo, as she's affectionately called, has been a major asset to her second grade classroom. Whether it's with one on one instruction or group activities, Granny Lo has touched the lives of everyone.
"They love her as if she were their own grandparent. She is as much a part of this classroom family as any of the kids in here. When she's not here, they want to know where she is and why she's not here," Brown said.
Partially disabled since December of 2005, Granny Lo and other grandparents like her, do get a little compensation for their work.
According to Program Director Hal Combs, "They get $2.65 per hour for a stipend. It's what we call a stipend and it's non taxable, so it doesn't go against any of their social security benefits or disability benefits or low income housing."
But Granny Lo says she does it for a totally different reason and plans to do it as long as she's able, "I said, thank you but I really love the opportunity to work with these kids. That's my joy. They look forward to me coming as much as I look forward to getting here and being with them."
Brown says for her, the thought of Granny Lo is unthinkable, "I would be devastated and so would the kids. They would miss her. I don't know what I would do without her. "