Helping teachers at SVHS
Pat O'Connell has been spending two class periods a week for the last three years helping Mary Lawson in her English language development class at Sonoma Valley High School.
O'Connell is one of more than 50 volunteers who are working with the Teacher Support Network at the high school.
"A friend who volunteers suggested I look into it," she said. O'Connell ended up going to an appreciation party for the network volunteers and signing up to be one herself in May 2008.
"I didn't have any background in English language development," she said. "But I find it very rewarding."
Her duties vary depending on what the class is doing. "Sometimes I help with spelling, geography, English ... There's so many things going on at the same time. And the kids are very appreciative."
The Teacher Support Network at Sonoma Valley High School was formed in 2006 bringing community volunteers into the classrooms to support the teachers.
"The teachers can't do all this by themselves," O'Connell added.
Lynn Ross, program coordinator of the TSN, said students benefit by receiving more individualized attention, teachers benefit by having extra help in the classroom and the community benefits by improving education at the high school.
"There are many people in our community with important skills to share, coupled with a desire to help our schools," Ross said. "The purpose of TSN is to satisfy both these needs by organizing and overseeing this important volunteer support activity."
Ross is a founding member of the TSN while Holly Kyle is the TSN coordinator for Senior Project Judging, scheduled in mid-May.
"The Sonoma Valley Education Foundation's sponsorship of TSN is the ideal partnership. TSN coordinates a remarkable resource of talented volunteers to assist teachers and students in the classroom. The Ed Foundation provides a unifying program and the local experience necessary to support our work," Ross said.
Jane Martin is the drama teacher at the high school and she's had TSN volunteers for the past three years. Kate Leland has been helping for the past three years while L.J. Tackett has been there two years and Tim Callan was new to the program last year.
"They come with such generosity and warmth," Martin said. "And the students respond to that."
Martin said she loves having the volunteers and they have become dear friends.
"Kate helps with the drama classes while L.J. and Tim help with the productions," Martin said. "They all do a lot of work behind the scenes ... they've been invaluable. I couldn't do it without them."
Martin said the volunteers can do as much or as little as they want. "But there's always work to be done," she added.
As program coordinator, Ross said a typical volunteer commitment is 1-1/2 hours a week, unless it's a special project.
"The beauty of TSN is that it's a simple idea that brings enormous value to many. The outcome of committed community members assisting teachers and ultimately role modeling for students brings subtle yet countless rewards. What better use of our time than to help educate the youth of our own community," Ross said.
She said TSN places about 50 volunteers a semester with 100 positions placed. Some volunteers volunteer for multiple placements. "This represents more than 2,000 volunteer hours each semester," she said. "In addition, TSN places more than 300 volunteers for Senior Project panel review.
Ross said there are many volunteer opportunities including:
• Remedial reading and writing, English language development English, RSP (resource specialist program) English;
• Pre-algebra, algebra 1 and 2, geometry, remedial math help;
• U.S. and world history;
• AVID (advancement via individual development) 9 to 12 (preparing for college);
• Drama, set design, lighting design, stage management;
• Metal shop - skilled welder, machinist, sheet metal work;
• Library, book room organization;
• Culinary and foods;
• Agriculture, school garden;
• Data entry, school news, information outreach, copy editing;
• Senior project essay writing, senior project judging and organization;
• Career center interviews, college support, career tech, retailing;
• Website help;
• Red and White Ball (supports TSN);
• Special projects;
For more information about how to become a volunteer, call Lynn Ross at 996-4135 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.