My name is Steve McCormick. I have always been a strong supporter of our public schools and the teachers who work so hard to give the next generation a good start towards a successful life. But I have a whole new appreciation for that, and wanted to share my story.
I started volunteering at Stanley Elementary after my grandson Michael was diagnosed with childhood epilepsy and began to struggle in school as a result. I wanted to better understand his strengths and weaknesses, where we needed to focus, and how I can best help him gain confidence and succeed in school.
This year, I have been volunteering 2 – 3 days per week in Ms. Cummins 4th grade class and spend the full day with the students. One of the things that surprised me the most was the breadth of problems that teachers have to deal with on a daily basis. They include learning challenges of individual students, behavioral problems, student’s relationships with each other, health concerns, and emotional issues. It is surprising how many times a student just needs to talk with an adult. For volunteers, I believe that frequency and continuity and the trust they build are important. I get asked regularly by students, “Will you be here tomorrow?”
I have been very impressed with the commitment of the administrative staff, support staff, and teachers at Stanley Elementary. They truly care about their students. I have seen teachers and staff spend their own money on food, clothing and supplies for students who are in need.
But an essential challenge is one that cannot be solved by volunteer efforts or that incredible commitment alone: classroom size. Ms. Cummins started the year with 27 students. There is a wide range of capabilities and skills within her class. And there are several students who present special challenges for various reasons. There is no way to provide the individual attention these students need to succeed and thrive.
As for my grandson? Thanks to the work of the entire staff, he now enjoys coming to school, feels safe and is getting outstanding support. But that level of attention is not available to all the kids that need it. The importance of fulfilling the voters’ and Supreme Court’s demand for lower class sizes cannot be overstated.
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