Edina Public Schools Extends Invitation to Volunteers of All Ages, Cultures & Interests

School volunteers bring out the best in Edina students.
EPS volunteer Dulce Torres seeks to encourage Spanish speaking students to realize their full academic potential.

How can would-be volunteers get connected? Carynn Roehrick, community resources and volunteer program manager for Edina Public Schools (EPS), is very glad we asked. In a recent trend, more adults of all ages are interested in volunteering in schools with children who aren’t necessarily their own. This trend includes teachers who sometimes prefer community volunteers who are not classroom parents. “There is a certain response from both students and staff when a volunteer from the community shows up in the classroom,” Roehrick says. “It’s often perceived as an extra level of support.”

Bob Pfefferle is an 82-year-old retired civil engineer who has played a number of roles as an EPS volunteer. After moving to Edina in 2013, Pfefferle helped fourth-graders with their homework in an after-school program. Now his 53-year career in engineering is being put to use by students like Will Klos, who is enrolled in a civil engineering and architecture class at Edina High School. “In the current unit we’re learning about the steps you take to become a civil engineer or an architect,” Klos explains. Who better to assist with that than a veteran of the field?

The practical experience Pfefferle can share is good for students. “I’m there,” says Pfefferle, “to relate what they’re learning in the classroom to what it might look like on the job.” It’s good for Pfefferle, he says, because it keeps his brain occupied and also gives structure to his retirement. Additionally, it gives him a new appreciation of the current skill level of high school students. “They’re exposed to equations I wasn’t introduced to until I was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin at Madison,” Pfefferle says.

“We love to tap into the expertise of the retired community,” says Roehrick. “They are a valuable resource, with a wealth of knowledge to share.”

Susan Kilmer’s first volunteer assignment was as a one-on-one mentor in the high school. Now she volunteers weekly at Creek Valley Elementary, working with third-graders on reading and reading comprehension. “It’s been amazing,” she says. “It’s very satisfying to know they want me to be there.”

A recent development in EPS and elsewhere is more diversity among the student population, and part of Roehrick’s present mission is to recruit community volunteers of equally diverse backgrounds. Sometimes all it takes to increase a child’s comfort at school, she says, is the presence of an adult who looks like them or who speaks their language. Dulce Torres is a married mother of two children who attend Normandale Elementary French immersion school. She moved from Mexico City two years ago and has always helped out in her children’s classrooms. But when she learned about the needs of Spanish-speaking 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds in Edina’s early childhood education classes, she stepped up there, too, providing interpretation to help improve the students’ understanding. Even more importantly, Torres found herself helping teachers discover what skills these youngest students have and have not mastered. “They often know all of it but can’t speak English,” Torres says.

Somali and other bilingual volunteers could be of great service to other populations of children in the community, Roehrick says. Whatever your gifts, whatever your personal desires are to help, give her a call. Make the connection.

Carynn Roehrick is waiting for your call at 952.848.4923 or for your email at [email protected].