By Jayme Taylor, Communication Manager, Clover Park School District
Annmarie Guillemette isn’t your average school volunteer. She doesn’t have children and isn’t connected to Oakbrook Elementary School in any way. However, once a week, no matter what the weather, Guillemette makes her way from her home to the school in her motorized wheelchair, taking care to navigate the neighborhood sidewalks. Being punctual and dependable is essential to Guillemette, who began volunteering in an effort to connect to her community.
At Oakbrook, Guillemette navigates her way through the school’s open concept layout—a popular design of the 1970s—to Maggie Brodahl’s third- and fourth-grade classroom where students take turns meeting with her to read fluency passages. This helps to strengthen academic and social skills.
“I like listening to the students read,” said Guillemette, who smiles and nods her head in encouragement as the students make their way through their books. “It’s fun to visit and help the students.”
Guillemette, who graduated from Lakes High School in 1997, began her partnership with Oakbrook with help from Trillium Employment Services, an organization that helps pair individuals with developmental disabilities to paid and volunteer employment positions.
“Annmarie has really made a positive impact on our students,” said Jennifer LaShells, Oakbrook’s counselor. “They were a bit nervous around her a first, but quickly learned that her disability really didn’t matter. Our CHARACTER COUNTS! curriculum has helped them learn to respect people’s differences. For example, during Annmarie’s first week at Oakbrook, one of our students held the door open for her. Annmarie was overcome with excitement and very impressed by the boy’s politeness and kindness.”
LaShells designed the CHARACTER COUNTS! Program at Oakbrook to promote positive traits at school, home and in the community. Each month students receive guidance lessons on the word of the month. Students are also nominated for SPIRIT AWARDS based on the identified character trait and overall good citizenship.
“Annmarie’s presence in our school gives students the opportunity to practice compassion, caring, tolerance, respect and understanding. This partnership has been positive for everyone involved.”
For more information about getting involved in Clover Park Schools, visit the Family and Community Web page or contact Sarah Fairweather, family and community partnership coordinator, at 583-5043.