GIRARD — Jannette Allai may have retired in 2001 after 32 years teaching at R.V. Haderlein Elementary school in Girard, but she’s not out of the building.
In 2003, she was substituting for the Girard School district when she was asked to continue on as part of the national program, Helping One Student To Succeed.
Rather than continuing the program, Allai agreed to continue a mentorship program similar to HOSTS to meet her district’s needs.
She calls it the RVH Mentoring Program.
In January 2004, Allai started with six volunteers from the community. By the end of the year the program accumulated 36 mentors.
With the help of then-first grade teacher Sally DeMoss, Allai worked to develop the program to what into what it is today.
The program — which now has 49 mentors — serves kindergarten through fifth grade students.
Each day, the mentors stop by Allai’s office to grab a folder which has everything they need for their visit with the student.
“The service they provide is invaluable,” Principal Mark LaTurner said. “It is a great connection from the school to the community.”
“Bottom line, we are truly meeting the students needs with those folks, they do a great job.
“Mrs. Allai, I can’t stay enough, she coordinates all this, she just does a super job for us.”
 

The mentors mainly work with students in reading and math, however it is much more than academics, LaTurner and Allai said.
“I think we’re not only meeting academic needs for our students but also the social emotional needs,” LaTurner said.
Allai agreed.
“Some just need to have somebody every week that they can talk to and they feel comfortable,” she said. “Some of our mentors have been with the same person since second grade.”
The mentors are community members, several of them are retired school teachers or paraeducators.
“I just think I should help them when they need help,” retired para, now mentor, Sharon Fisher said. “The best part is seeing how they are progressing and you can tell that they are from the time they started.”
Fisher’s second grader loves to read with her, she said. 
Kindergartners and first grade students’ mentors visit in the classroom, which kindergarten teachers, Jenna Vitt,  Dina Blevins, Nancy Boore and Lindsay Schossow said has been a great help.
“They build relationships with the students that are unique and different than the classroom teacher,” Blevins said. “They have a different relationship with kids than what we do.”
Boore agreed.
“What they do is very meaningful and impactful in what they’re doing,” Boore said.
The kindergarten teachers said the students look forward to the visits, which provide them with the one-on-one time that they need.
Mentors visit students in second through fifth grade based on the children’s needs, either in the classroom to assist with in-class activities, visit in the library to practice reading or in the computer lab where students can practice work on the computer and tablets with the help of their mentor.
“It means so much to us because the kids need that relationship,” Third Grade Teacher Tessa Johnson said.
It’s not just community members who come in to visit with the elementary students. The district’s high school juniors and seniors can sign up to volunteer if their grades are good.
Girard High School junior Aubrey Scott said she plans to be a teacher after she graduates.
“I know some of them need extra support,” Scott said. “I know what it’s like to look up to people who are older.
“I hope that they want to grow up and be a teacher too.”
Allai praised the district and community which have been supportive of the program.
“We are lucky the community and school board has been so cooperative and supportive,” Allai said.
After several years of teaching, Allai knew how having that extra person in students’ lives could help them both academically and emotionally, she said.
“I was on the other end, I was a teacher and I would have loved to have mentors come in to help,” she said. “I see what we do for the children.
“It’s a win-win situation because all of the mentors enjoy it, we’re all here for the kids.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. To nominate someone for Patrick's People send an email to patrickspeople@morningsun.net