Five days a week, the students at Cooper Elementary call Jeannette Axness “Grandma Jeannette.” It’s not because she is related to them, but because she volunteers there as a Foster Grandparent.
Axness spends five hours a week, five hours each day, helping three kindergarten classes of students with their studies.
“I help teach them, just like the teacher would, only one at a time, one-on-one,” she said. “It helps the children learn their letters, their numbers and it helps the teacher. If I do one-on-one with a child that learns, then they can do the group teaching.”
Mostly, Axness focuses helping students with their words, reinforcing the students’ lessons.
“They do it in their room, but this helps them remember a little more,” she said. “I do sentence with them, and do different things a teacher might not do with them, as far as talking to them.”
This is Axness’s first year as a Foster Grandparent, having started at the beginning of the school year in August.
“I enjoy it a lot,” she said. “The kids are wonderful. I don’t know if it’s ‘grandma’ instead of teacher that they can talk to or learn with better, but they have a good time with it, too.”
The students are as equally receptive to their foster grandparent as they are their teachers.
“I walk down the hall, and everybody says ‘Hi, Grandma’ or gives you a hug,” she said. “They’re just fun to be around. And they are learning.”
Axness, since the start of year, has witnessed students learn and grow over the brief time with their education.
“With kindergarten, I have seen from the time school started to now, how much they have learned, how far they have come in numbers, in words, in letters,” she said. “It’s just amazing what you really do for the kids. And now they can write sentences and read.”
One exercise, Axness times students on how many words they can say in one minute.
“One did 40 words in one minute, one only did 17 words in one minute,” she said. “You have to sound out the words and we go over them. But at the beginning, they didn’t know any. They’re working their way up.”
Axness said she’s proud to be a part of their growth. Retirement, she said, wasn’t “working out too well” and says helping the students has been “really rewarding.”
“I feel like I’m accomplishing something,” she said. “I’m helping them learn.”
Retiring from Fort Dodge Animal Health after 32 years, Axness said something to do, to engage her, and knew of Foster Grandparents.
“I had heard of the program, and thought, you know, if I wanted to get out and do something, you’re kind of at an age where nobody’s really going to hire you. Me, anyhow,” she said. “This way, I could do something and stay productive. I can get out, talk to them.”
Axness said she likes the program, and would recommend it to others.
“If you want to feel like you’re doing something for someone, helping out, if anybody wanted to do something like that, it’s a very good program,” she said. “The teachers tell me what they want me to do, and I can do it. I can help the kids.”