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Show Appreciation of Teachers for More than Just One Week

May 7-12 is National Teacher Appreciation Week in the U.S., a time to celebrate and thank educators in our lives. Beyond the events and public accolades, however, I can think of another way to say “Thank you” to teachers.

What better way for an individual to acknowledge teachers’ importance than to volunteer to help a student do better in school? We all stand to benefit; by helping children succeed in school, they're more likely to become successful adults and contribute to a more vibrant community.

Brenda Pabon struggled as a student. When she moved from Puerto Rico to New York as a child, she had a hard time learning English. “I didn’t have someone to take the extra time to help me,” she said. “I really struggled, and I was even held back in the third grade.” Today, Brenda works for Aetna and volunteers to help students like Yamil, develop reading skills that are important to success in school and in life. Brenda makes it fun, finding books about Yamil’s favorite topics: snakes and dinosaurs. As they read each page in English, Brenda translates any new words. Later, they make flashcards to reinforce those new words. With Brenda’s support, Yamil’s reading has improved each week.

He is one of more than 230 students who benefit from the United Way Readers program led by United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut. During the 2015/2016 school year, 90 percent of students participating in the program improved their literacy skills. United Way recruited 155 volunteers like Brenda from more than 40 workplaces to spend over 2,000 hours reading with children one-on-one to build vocabulary and comprehension skills. 

There are students like Yamil everywhere, incredibly smart but at risk for losing interest in school and getting off track. It takes the entire community to step up and be a part of a lasting solution to support students who are struggling academically. Volunteering in this way is good for students, teachers and the greater community. And it is a great way to show our appreciation – this week and all year long -- for a good education and the teachers who make it possible.