As one of eight foster grandparents working with teachers at Collins Elementary School, 74-year-old Eulia Stallings makes a difference.
For six years, she has helped Kim McDowell teach reading and writing basics at the east Augusta school.
She worked as a physician's helper for Dr. William Griffith for 33 years before retiring in 1997. That year, she had been volunteering an hour a week at a fifth grade class at Collins and had devoted time to the Alzheimer's Support Group and the Augusta Senior Citizen's Center. She was placed at Collins through the centers' Senior Corps program in 1998.
Ms. McDowell was teaching third grade at the time, and when she transferred to second grade, Ms. Stallings followed. Ms. Stallings works every day for four hours, more recently for six. She works with students who need help with reading and writing skills. On a recent visit, she sat at a circular table with three children, reading The Amazing Ant, by Sarah Sams.
The women have a mutual admiration for one another.
"Ms. McDowell is an amazing teacher; she makes it easier to work with the children," Ms. Stallings said.
"Yes, but she won't take a compliment to save her soul," Ms. McDowell replied. "She gives them a lot of one-on-one attention. She goes above and beyond the curriculum and teaches them manners and things they should be learning at home."
Ms. Stallings said she's happy to lend a hand to those who truly need it.
"There are children here who really need help, and I can give it," she said. "Their reading skills are improving; they're able to write; they can identify words."
Working for six years at the same school has made her more confident in her tutoring abilities.
"I'm more comfortable now," she said. "Watching and listening to Ms. McDowell has helped me get through to them. It also helps to know the children, to know what they can do."
At Ms. Stallings' suggestion, her cousin, Floydia Lofton has also been participating in the program. The best part is witnessing up close students' improvement.
"It's been most gratifying when I've been working with a child and I can see they can read or write, and they're able to go to the next level," she said. "I did not choose this school; they just asked me to come here. But I like being here."
Reach Patrick Verel at (706) 823-3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org