Volunteer Spotlight: Marilyn Harris

Volunteer Marilyn Harris reading to students
Volunteer Teacher Grade School
Marilyn Harris Susan Caldwell Kindergarten Crooked Billet-Hallowell Learning Community

When Marilyn Harris retired from her nursing career, her husband joked that she'd only "retired from getting a paycheck". He was right. Marilyn, still a registered nurse in Pennsylvania, brings the skills she learned dealing with patients and families to Susan Caldwell's kindergarten classroom. The most important things, she says, are listening and being present.

Q&A with Marilyn Harris, S.A.G.E.™ volunteer

What is it like being a S.A.G.E.™? What do you do?

MH: I am in the classroom from 8:30 – 10:30 AM. I listen to morning announcements, listen to the children during Morning Circle when the children share what they did the previous evening, look forward to doing, and sharing of their special experiences. During play time, I am available to observe, offer help, tie shoelaces, be in the audience for a puppet show, and more. I sometimes help with math and Kid Writing.

In May during National Nurses Week, I have read a book that shares information on what nurses do in the various types of nursing and also a book that states that mommies and daddies can be nurses. I have brought in my stethoscope and sphygmomanometer to show the class, along with photos of me when nurses still wore caps and white uniforms while at work.

What are some of the things you most enjoy about being a S.A.G.E.™?

Students have reinforced the importance of “being present”. The shy students need encouragement, some need a shoelace tied, and others need a listening ear. I am constantly amazed at the knowledge of the 5-year-olds and their abilities at this young age. Their imagination during playtime is fun to watch. Asking what a particular item they are building represents, rather than stating what I think it is, allows the children to share their imagination and enthusiasm. I again reflect on the importance of “being” rather than “doing”.

Q&A with Susan Caldwell, Kindergarten Teacher

What are some of the logistical benefits for teachers when working with a S.A.G.E.™?

S.C.: I love knowing that every Tuesday, I can count on Marilyn Harris’ help in my Kindergarten classroom. She always arrives early and is ready to greet and help the students the second they walk in the room. Mrs. Harris is an extra set of hands for the morning wake-up paper, plays with the children during playtime, and helps get the tables organized for Kid Writing.

What are some unexpected benefits you and your students have experienced?

Mrs. Harris has devoted her life to nursing. During Nurses’ Week, she will read special nursing stories to the children and share special objects related to nursing. It is always so interesting to hear her own personal experiences and how she continues to care for those in need. She also has started a tradition of bringing in mini pumpkins for the kids to decorate at Halloween time. And occasionally she just surprises the kids with a homemade treat!

How does having a S.A.G.E.™ in the classroom enrich education?

It is interesting to hear stories from a different generation. It is also important for the children to interact with a “grandmom” figure as not all of them have a chance for such interactions at home.

What are some tips you would share with teachers new to S.A.G.E.™?

I would advise colleagues to utilize the program and enjoy an extra set of adult hands in the classroom!

Q&A with Kindergarten Students

What's the best part about having a S.A.G.E.™ in your class?

“She is kind, nice and helpful. She helps us with our morning work. She plays with us.”

What do you want other students to know about learning with a S.A.G.E.™?

“She brings things for us. She loves us.”

I look forward to the days our S.A.G.E.™ visits the classroom because:

“She is nice and thoughtful.”

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