LOGANSPORT — What’s a teacher to do in retirement? One decided to mentor elementary students. And she’s done it every year for the last 15 years.
There are roughly six decades between Elaine Brown, 75, and the three children she mentors each week. Brown has visited elementary schools in Galveston and Logansport for the last 15 years just to show love and attention to children.
Brown and the children are part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cass County in-school program called “Local Heroes.” It’s similar to the traditional matching program but is contained within a child’s school setting.
A mentor meets with a child for an hour each week during a school day to act as a constructive role model in the child’s life. Together, “Local Heroes” and the traditional matching program receive almost a third of their funding from United Way of Cass County, according to April Zartman, local BBBS executive director.
Once a third-grade teacher at Galveston Elementary School, Brown retired in 1997. She decided to volunteer as a Local Hero about a year later, when a representative from the organization spoke at a gathering of retired teachers and piqued her interest.
Now she helps her protégés with homework or keeps them company at lunch once a week. She’s done so every year since she started and estimates she has mentored 10 children, following several of them all through elementary school.
“Some of the other kids tease them and say, ‘Is that your grandmother?’” Brown said, chuckling.
She may not be theirs, but she does have 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren to keep up with. Most of them live nearby.
And she loves being surrounded by so many young people.
“I’m a child at heart,” Brown said. “If I’m with a group of kids, I just get down on the floor and do things with them.”
Her newest Little, as matched children are called within Big Brothers Big Sisters programs, is 10-year-old Micah Harmon. He started meeting with Brown on Thursdays early last fall after his counselor suggested he’d benefit from the program.
Brown and Micah make up one of seven matches this year. Zartman said she hopes to expand the program this fall.
Micah doesn’t care to be separated from the class, said his mother, Heidi Anderson, but “he does like the one-on-one attention.” It’s something his teacher doesn’t always have time to give, she said.
Anderson, the single mother of Micah and a 15-year-old brother, studies at Ivy Tech Community College but makes sure to be home by the time her sons get off the school bus. She suspects the one-on-one time with Brown helps Micah stay focused on his schoolwork.
The weekly Local Heroes session, combined with a few other factors, have helped Micah’s grades, Anderson said.
“He went from straight Fs to having only one F this semester,” she said, “and he actually has an A.”
Anderson has never met Brown — one of the program’s distinctive characteristics is that it’s completely contained within the school — but she hears from her son about the work they do each week.
“I know that they work on any kind of assignment that he needs help with,” she said, whether that’s homework he received the day before or something left over from earlier in the week.
And if you ask Brown, the weekly homework sessions benefit both student and mentor.
“It’s satisfying because, with most of them, you can see the impact it makes on them,” she said.
Her fondest memory of volunteering with Local Heroes happened several years ago.
“It was Grandparent’s Day,” said Brown, and one of her protégés, a third- or fourth-grade girl, didn’t have a grandparent. “So she wanted me to be her grandparent.”
She went with the girl to her classes that day and posed for pictures with her.
“It made me feel good that she wanted me to do that,” Brown said.