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Bird’s volunteer work ‘integral’ to students’ success

— “Volunteers are sometimes the unsung heroes of our local education system,” said Chris FitzMaurice, kindergarten/first-grade teacher at Grangeville Elementary Middle School.

That certainly seems to be the case for GEMS young students.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday morning, children are greeted with a smiling face as they enter the school building. After the bell rings, volunteer Susan Bird gathers first graders and works with them on their sight words.

“Of?” asks one little boy sitting around a small table.

“Remember what sound two f’s make?” Bird asked.

“Oh! It’s ‘off!’” the youngster replied.

Bird has been volunteering at GEMS for three years. Prior to that she worked as a bank manager then went back to school and obtained her teachers certification. She steadily substitute taught in the elementary school for years. She also served as the Grangeville Centennial Library’s “Story Lady” for its preschool story hour for a decade.

“I believe it’s so important for children to learn how to read and to build on that skill,” she said. “Reading really opens the doors to everything else.”

Bird works with children from each K-1 classroom during a two-hour period. All first-grade children have a total of 168 sight words to learn to read by the end of the school year.

“The sight words are divided into three lists comprising of 56 common sight words in each list,” explained FitzMaurice. “The recognition of sight words helps children with their reading fluency, accuracy, and comprehension.”

Bird works with three to four children at a time from each classroom. The children practice reading the words off a flash card and play sight word games. Later in the classroom, the first-grade students will practice reading these sight words within the context of a story or selected sentences.

“The favorite part of the lesson is the lucky star they receive after working with Mrs. Bird,” FitaMaurice added. “Mrs. Bird has a special way of folding paper into a little star which she presents as a reward to the children.”

FitzMaurice said Bird’s time and instruction is an integral part of many first-grade students’ reading progress.

Along with this volunteer commitment, Bird also works at GEMS in the spring during the ISAT testing for the older students.

Bird and her husband, Pat, have two grown daughters.

“Mrs. Bird’s volunteer service to the younger students at GEMS is a shining example of the commitment of volunteers to our community and the education of our youth,” FitzMaurice emphasized.

To inquire about volunteer opportunities, call GEMS at 983-0400 or e-mail principal Dr. Susan Anderson,


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