Pat Fromal began volunteering in Cheri Arnaiz's 3rd grade classroom after seeing an ad for volunteers that was convenient to her location. What neither she nor her partner teacher expected was the genuine friendship that would blossom as they worked together in the classroom.
What is your background?
PF: A very long time ago, (50 + years) I began my teaching career as a third grade teacher in the suburbs of Wilmington, Delaware. When I married and moved away, I began raising my family and was a stay at home mother. Once my sons were in school, I began substituting in the Hatboro-Horsham School District for a few years. I also worked in the middle school for several years as a teaching assistant in 6th grade. The next 20 + years were spent in the pharmaceutical industry working in a mail order pharmacy.
I currently volunteer in a third grade at Crooked Billet-Hallowell Learning Community. I have been there since 2015 with Mrs. Cheri Arnaiz. For me, it is a perfect match.
What is it like being a S.A.G.E.? What do you do?
Working with Mrs. Arnaiz is such a pleasure. She has a way of bringing out the best in each student and sending them off to fourth grade as their own best person who is kind and works well with others and just shines.
I do anything I can to help Mrs. Arnaiz and the students. I've worked with small groups in math, created math games with them, worked on student planned and executed bulletin boards. The third grade at Hallowell has an Alex's Lemonade Stand to benefit CHOP near the end of each school year. So many of the incoming third graders tell me how eager they are to be part of the Lemonade Stand. I have helped the students make things that they sell during this time and anything else I can do to help make this effort a success. As an aside, last year the lemonade stand made over $7,000 for CHOP.
What is the most surprising thing about your experience?
The computers. Each student has one and so much learning involves their use. I am less than tech savvy when it comes to their computers but the kids are patient with me and help me with some aspects of the workings of the computers and I can help them with other aspects. I was also surprised at how eager I am to go back each time. I always look forward to September and the start of a new school year.
What do you feel students learn from having you be a part of their educational experience?
Mrs. Arnaiz' students learn that they are a part of a community that welcomes everyone and includes all people. I am just one more part in their inclusive community. I am a representative of the older people in their lives both in and out of school. I think they learn that I am there to help them in any way I can both individually and as part of a group.
What have students taught you?
They've taught me that I have a lot to learn about technology and also how willing they are to help me get better at using their computers. They've also taught me to smile more and enjoy each day, because each day is special. One of the things this year is that we are all beautiful, inside and out and that we need to take care of ourselves as well as others. Good lessons for all of us to learn.
What advice do you have for other seniors considering becoming a S.A.G.E.?
I'd say if this is something you think you would enjoy, go for it. If you are as fortunate as I am, having found a teacher who is so dedicated and works so hard to bring out the best in all of us, then you will be so happy. Happy is a great way to spend your day.
What are some of the logistical benefits for teachers when working with a S.A.G.E.?
CA: A dedicated volunteer who puts their heart into the work makes your school day run smoother. You can meet with individuals and small groups much more frequently. You can also team up on projects that you didn’t think were possible because of time constraints. Having another adult in the room allows for more flexibility.
What are some unexpected benefits you and your students experienced?
When I began this journey with Pat I did not expect that we would form such a great friendship and really become such an incredible team. It is amazing how much we have tackled together. Her dedication, availability, and flexibility has made a tremendous impact on the lives of so many, including mine.
How does having a S.A.G.E. in the classroom enrich education?
It is amazing what you can accomplish when you have the support of a S.A.G.E. volunteer. Being able to provide more frequent one to one reteaching and small group instruction benefits all learners. Most importantly the kindness and conversations that are generated from Pat makes such a difference in the lives of the children. Another advantage is the reinforcement or reteaching activities that a S.A.G.E. volunteer can run, while you continue teaching and meeting individual needs of other students, are crucial to the success of many struggling students. Pat also provides guidance and feedback for during Project Based Learning and extension activities.
What are some tips you would share with teachers new to S.A.G.E.?
Be honest about your needs and communicate about your goals. Quickly establish a structure that works for your students and allows you to continue meeting goals for others while the volunteer works with individuals or small groups. If your day does not run smoothly with a S.A.G.E. volunteer in your classroom, reflect your plan, revise your plan, and reach out to those who can help.
We also heard from the third graders in Mrs. Arnaiz's class:
What's the best part about having a S.A.G.E. in your class?
I love when Mrs. Fromal comes into our class because she comes up with fun ways to work together. She is very creative and helpful. Mrs. Fromal makes learning fun.
What do you want other students to know about learning with a S.A.G.E.?
Sometimes you can do special activities and projects that you don’t usually do in school. She volunteers her time so we can help change the world with our Helping Hands Stand. Mrs. Fromal donates her time and her treasures. It is better to have another teacher in the room. We can do more.
I look forward to the days our S.A.G.E. visits the classroom because:
Mrs. Fromal works with us on creating the best plan for any project. She sometimes brings in materials for us to use, without anyone asking her to. She shops for crafts that we can use to help others. She is always looking for resources to help make our projects better.