''Heard. Say the word first, and then spell it,'' said Grandma Joyce Fonti to a second-grader. ''I heard it through the grapevine.''
''Heard. H-E-A-R-D,'' said Emma.
''Very good! Now you can move your game piece.''
Ring Elementary School second-graders Joshua Brunacini, Emma Westley and Bradley Galeazzo play a literacy game with Foster Grandma Joyce Fonti.
Grandma Joyce was working with second-graders during literacy workstation time in Mary Moran's classroom. She is one of six Foster Grandparents who are working at Ring Elementary School through Lutheran Social Services' Foster Grandparent Program. Other Foster Grandparents at Ring School are Bonnie Thompson, Hazel Porter, Pat Dake, Sally Richir and Barb Colgrove. The Foster Grandparent Program serves Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties placing people over 55 years old in volunteer service to meet critical needs of children and to provide a high quality experience that will enrich the lives of the volunteers.
''If I can just make a little bit of difference in even one or two students' lives, then I've been successful,'' said Mrs. Fonti. ''Even though I sometimes get tired, I can't wait to come in everyday to work with the students. I've learned so much from the students and Mrs. Moran. She is such a wonderful teacher.''
Mrs. Fonti, along with the other grandparents, works under the supervision of the classroom teacher providing assistance, love and support to Ring students. She is also paired with new English as a Second Language students to help newcomers adjust to their new classroom.
''She is a gem,'' said Mrs. Moran. ''She helps during small group literacy workstations by playing skills games and helps with activities that teach students to follow directions. She also works one-on-one with students to help them catch up. But, she also eats lunch with the students and just listens to them. She's a caring role model for the students.''
Second-grade teacher Marci Centi's Foster Grandparent, Grandma Hazel has been in her classroom for six years. Mrs. Centi's own grandmother is a foster grandmother and she felt a few students could use the extra TLC a foster grandma could provide.
''She's such an angel. She works with children that struggle to work independently, checks in homework personally so that each child gets a warm welcome every morning and eats lunch with students who have worked hard either on behavior or academics,'' said Mrs. Centi. ''The students with foster grandparents get additional attention, another adult role model and mentor. For a teacher, it gives us an extra set of reliable helping hands, someone to have another perspective. It is truly a wonderful program.''
The students know the Foster Grandparents are special.
''Grandma Joyce is really nice and helps us when we are struggling with things like reading,'' said Ring Elementary School second-grader Bradley Galeazzo. ''I like that she's fun when we do the literacy workstation but also helps us do our work.''
Mrs. Fonti knows the benefits of being in the Foster Grandparent Program.
''I wanted to do something with my time. I heard about this program and it sounded like a great idea. These kids just need an extra hug or one-on-one time to better learn their skills. I love providing that for them and I've learned so much from the students myself.''
''Not everyone has a grandma, so we are lucky,'' said second-grader Sarah Tibbitts. ''It makes us feel special to have her help us with our work. She's really nice and special.''
To learn more about becoming a Foster Grandparent, call Debbie Basile, FGP project director, at 665-8039.