Wilson School benefits from family connection of volunteers

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Nick Crow
Wednesday, March 5, 2014

JANESVILLE — It's not unusual for moms to volunteer in the classrooms of their children, but in three classrooms at Wilson Elementary School, the children are teachers, not students.

Coral Nyquist was a teacher for 30 years before retiring in 2000, the year her daughter Katy Egger began teaching.

“I started volunteering because she needed me,” Nyquist said. “Kids need big people around that care for them.”

“I think with moms volunteering for their own children, there is more flexibility,” Principal Kim Peerenboom said. “They really believe in the students and believe they are making a difference. If they didn't, they wouldn't come back.”

Wilson Elementary School relies heavily on its volunteers for help in the classroom, Peerenboom said.

“An important thing for kids is consistency,” Peerenboom said. “The kids are very appreciative and love the one-on-one attention. They're very important. Anytime we can connect a kid with an adult, that makes a huge impact on the students.”

Egger said both of her parents were teachers, making education a natural career path for her. Her mom has been volunteering in her class for 14 years, helping anywhere she is needed, she said.

“You can take the teacher out of the classroom but can't take the classroom out of the teacher,” Nyquist said. “When you have a kid, you are concerned about their welfare.”

Kathy Wolf, who volunteers in her son Andrew Wolf's second-grade class, has known Nyquist for years. Kathy said her family has been affiliated with the Janesville School District in one way or another for the 45 years.

“I love to do it (volunteering) because they (the kids) are so appreciative,” Kathy said.

Andrew joked that the parents volunteer in the classrooms of their teacher children “just to make sure we are behaving.”

Kathy, a retired librarian, has volunteered for five years and often brings in special projects for the students, Andrew said.

“She's great at getting kids alone one-on-one and finding what they're interested in,” Andrew said.

Kathy said she finds fulfillment in helping the kids or just paying attention to them.

“They are really anxious to read,” Kathy said. “They love it and are always polite. It's great to start in September and go all the way through June and see their progress.”

Evie Nett is new to volunteering at Wilson. Her daughter Jackie Rufer has taught at Wilson Elementary for two years. Nett finds volunteering to be a learning experience for both her and the children.

“They're very precious,” Nett said. “They make you laugh. It's impossible to leave in a bad mood after reading with them.”

Nett, who is retired from a career at Blackhawk Community Credit Union, said her daughter's career path is especially close to her heart because Rufer had her own troubles with reading when she was young.

“I find it interesting for her to pick this,” Nett said. “It is truly amazing. I just hope I do make a difference with the kids.”

Rufer's job at Wilson is to work with children to get them motivated to read.

“We just want our kids to succeed,” Rufer said. “It's nice for kids to have extra reading they wouldn't get at home. I think for our kids these relationships are so important.”

Egger said all the volunteers at Wilson are vital to the school's success.

“Volunteers make a huge difference,” Egger said. “The kids can tell what day it is based on who is here volunteering. It's so sweet.”

Peerenboom estimates the school has 25 volunteers. “Volunteers help in a variety of ways,” Peerenboom said. “We try to match up their interests with where teachers need assistance with so it's a good fit for everyone.”

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