Joel Bradley and Thomas Herzberg
Woodbury High School
Every morning, Woodbury High School (WHS) students can find 3M engineers Joel Bradley or Thomas Herzberg for help with any math and science subject. They rotate the daily responsibility as the school’s math and science tutors.
Bradley, who graduated from WHS, has been volunteering with the program for the past 14 years. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to interact with someone who isn’t directly involved with their grading, like a teacher or a parent,” Bradley says. “The first time they are timid and shy, and then they realize this is a good thing. Everyone needs a place to bounce ideas off of. And then they tell their friends. I’m officially the math and science tutor, but as you establish relationships, they’ll ask me advice on other stuff like writing a paper or professional guidance.”
Another aspect of volunteering that Bradley enjoys? “What’s really cool is when they start to teach others,” he says. “Test day is busy and you do your best to circulate; students who have come in and asked the same questions already will help each other.”
Thomas Herzberg, whose children and stepchildren graduated from WHS, started volunteering last year. “I really enjoy teaching math and science. My wife, whom I lost three years ago, was a teacher, and that might be part of it,” he says. “I’m a little bit on my own right now, so it’s a way to get social activity and connect with kids in the community. I really like seeing the light bulb go on…when they say ‘Wow, I really get this now’ or ‘That wasn’t as hard as I thought.’ That’s what keeps me coming back.”
St. Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic School
Kay George, who was a school teacher for more than 40 years, wanted to help give back in her retirement. In 2002, she decided to volunteer at her grandchildren’s school, St. Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic School, assisting with reading and vocabulary and helping in the classroom. When her grandchildren got older, she began to help in the library.
“I noticed the library could use a little more appeal, so I took that on. Being creative was a fun part of teaching, so I enjoy making it attractive for the children,” says George, who sets out themed book displays on current/historical events, presidential birthdays or famous authors. She creates bulletin boards with clippings from the daily newspaper.
“Kay has made a terrific contribution to Saint Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic School over the years,” says Tim Demco, St. Ambrose’s media specialist. “She lends assistance to students who might need help locating materials, she praises classes who make good use of our resources, and she has even reminded students to behave accordingly and respectfully when those reminders were needed. She has been a terrific partner in the library, supporting our operations in just about every way imaginable.”
“It’s always been a very welcoming place and anything you do for them they are always very appreciative,” George says. “All the teachers are very welcoming and the students are very polite. It keeps me up-to-date on what kids are reading and interested in; it helps me to relate to my grandchildren better.”
Middleton Elementary School
“I love working with kids,” says Alfrieda Baldwin, who retired as an attorney in 2014. Baldwin was connected with teacher Andrea Absey when she was at Hillside Elementary School in Cottage Grove in her other volunteer role at Junior Achievement, and ended up helping in her classroom. When Absey moved to Middleton Elementary School, Baldwin moved with her.
“Alfrieda is an extremely valuable resource to my classroom; because of her we are able to accomplish so much more,” Absey says. “She is dedicated to my students and because of her efforts, my kids are able to get extra help and attention. They look forward to her coming in each day.”
Baldwin spends an hour each day Monday through Thursday with Absey’s fourth grade students in reading groups. “We read books together, we discuss them. It’s helping the kids learn how to read and interpret what they are reading. It’s almost like a kids’ book club,” Baldwin says. This year she is also beginning to help first graders in another Middleton classroom, and she assists two fifth-graders with one-on-one tutoring.
“I love the ability to help kids with a skill that I know is so important,” Baldwin says. “I enjoy sharing my own love of reading with the kids and helping them become better readers.”
New Life Academy
After 13 years volunteering at New Life Academy, Julie Dolan has had many roles over the years—helping with field trips, as a classroom mom, and helping with fundraisers and floats for Woodbury Days. “I loved helping out because it was flexible, creative and I could be with my kids. It nurtures your soul,” she says.
Dolan started hosting popular class and grade parties on her 15-acre property, inviting students and parents to enjoy a bonfire, horse rides, hayrides and team-building games. Dolan recruits parent volunteers to clean out her pole barn and bring food for more than 100 people. “It’s proven to be successful year after year,” she says.
Dolan is also very proud of starting the school’s ski club. She coordinates anywhere from 25 to 70 participants, plus volunteer chaperones, who assist with lift tickets, rentals and supervision, as well as transportation and a meal provided for the kids. The group skis six to seven times a season at Afton Alps.
“When you give it comes back to you, and that school has given me more than I have given it,” Dolan says. “I had breast cancer in 2010, and it turned my world upside down. I had people sending me meals every day, signing up to bring me to chemo, sitting with me, praying for me. I can’t tell you the support which came flying in that I didn’t expect. God puts people in your life at the right time, and those people were in my life at the right time.”
Woodbury Elementary School
For Karla Edwards (not pictured), volunteering gave her a new outlet and identity as a stay-at-home mom. “I started when my kids were in kindergarten, helping teachers in the classrooms,” Edwards says. “And although I enjoyed that, I am really much more of an administrative person. I started attending PTO meetings, learning more about the school and that’s how I got involved.”
Edwards is serving her second year as PTO president. “I found it really rewarding as a stay-at-home parent to have something that belonged to me,” she says. “I love being able to be at school and have an impact on all the kids, not just my kids.”
Edward’s favorite part of her volunteerism is to work on staff appreciation events. The PTO provides teachers’ meals for conference nights, and in May they throw an all-staff lunch, which also honors support staff including paraprofessionals and custodians.
“One thing I always tell new kindergarten parents is that your kids will be so proud of you if you are part of their school,” Edwards says.