A couple of years after retiring as an administrative secretary, Tina Smith was given the opportunity to pursue a passion for early childhood education when a friend recommended that she become a S.A.G.E. volunteer. Now, Tina volunteers weekly in Cindy Sullivan's kindergarten classroom, sharing her passion for reading with eager, young minds.
What motivated you to become a S.A.G.E.?
TS: After being retired for a couple of years, I was looking for something inspiring to do. My friend, Pat Lutz, was volunteering with S.A.G.E. and it sounded like a nice opportunity to be uplifting both for myself and for young people.
How does your volunteer position match your personal and professional expertise?
Personally, I always truly enjoyed being a mother and now a grandmother. The growing up years can be challenging but mostly rewarding to watch and to be part of so much activity. It might be just part of my DNA to want to be involved with children, as I remember taking an aptitude test in high school revealing that I should be a kindergarten teacher and work with small children. I didn't pursue that route but I did always stay involved in our children's and grandchildren's school activities.
Professionally, my first paying job was babysitting! Really though, I have always been in the administrative secretarial field, which requires proper reading and writing skills. Those skills are emphasized in Cindy's classroom, and I am a believer in the saying, "All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten."
What is it like being a S.A.G.E.? What do you do?
I think I will be most remembered by the students as someone who involves them in reading. Each week, I not only read them a few books from the classroom, but we also read together books they bring in that are special to them, and they share with the other children why they like the book, so everyone learns a little something about each other. I also brought in a book never published but written by my father, with pictures drawn by my aunt, to share something from another generation, which brought up questions from them about me - a nice interaction. As the year progresses, I help them with what Cindy calls Kids Writing, where they learn how to form the beginning, middle and end of their own story, and they draw pictures to illustrate it as well. I help with a variety of other projects going on each week.
What have students taught you?
It has been refreshing to see their honesty - even when I said something once about getting old, and one of them said "you're already old Miss Tina" (I'm sure he didn't mean it in a bad way though!) So I guess I also learned you need to keep a good sense of humor.
What do you most look forward to when you are about to volunteer?
You never know what may happen that day - you would think it's always the same, but not so.
What are some tips you would share with teachers new to S.A.G.E.?
CS: The extra set of hands is invaluable not just at the beginning of the year but all throughout. We work so hard in the beginning to establish rules/manners but as we get to really know the children a switch turns. Many of the children are nervous or scared at first but that turns into a respect, trust, and love. Once that happens the classroom becomes almost magical. Tina and I work together to bring some out of their shells and show them what they can do. Others we work very hard to keep a lid on because they need that structure and extra love. The trick is balancing all those personalities and trying to provide all that they need.
Fridays in kindergarten are called Fun Friday, the children work so hard all week. Tina helps me prepare our learning centers. These activities allow children to assimilate, synthesize and analyze many of the concepts of the week. Most centers are hands-on, others include prompts for the writing process and some are sight word or math games. Tina enriches our classroom as she expertly oversees the learning centers. This enables me to meet with children for guided reading, writing or to provide one on one assistance.
I would encourage teachers new to S.A.G.E. to not be afraid to give up some of the power. When you have S.A.G.E. as a partner in learning everybody wins. And at the end of the day, those smiles, hugs and I love you’s will let you know you hit your mark. And in my class, I just love when they cheer Tina’s arrival.
We also got some thoughts from the students in their kindergarten class.
What's the best part about having a S.A.G.E. in your class?
Miss Tina is fun. She always reads us a story and helps in the classroom.
What do you want other students to know about learning with a S.A.G.E.?
If you need help just raise your hand. Miss Tina always tries her best.
I look forward to the days our S.A.G.E. visits the classroom because:
It’s Fun Friday and Miss Tina does dance party with us.