Boston Partners in Education is always recruiting volunteer academic mentors. We search for volunteers from the community and local businesses. The opportunity to work in a classroom in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) appeals to many different people, from all walks of life.

This week is National Volunteer Week and each day we will profile a different person who represents one of the many types of volunteers who work in BPS through Boston Partners in Education.

Today you can read about Carol Knox. Carol is a retired Union Representative with the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW). She’s also been the parent of two children in BPS, one of whom is currently an eighth grader at the Boston Latin School. Parents are important to the work of Boston Partners, whether they are mentoring other children as volunteers in the classroom, or helping and guiding their own children with their homework and school life.

Carol Knox with student
Carol started volunteering in Sarah DeCruz’s sixth grade classroom at the Mission Hill K-8 School in October, 2011. She helps students in math and literacy three days a week.

Why did you choose this organization?
I have two children, both of whom attended BPS. In 2010 I was at a conference at which Marian Wright Edelman spoke powerfully about the need to give back. I decided to do just that, and was specifically interested in working with students in BPS. Through online research I found Boston Partners and it seemed like a good fit.

What other charitable work, if any, do you do?
I volunteer with and am a Board member for BalletRox in Jamaica Plain. The organization provides ballet and dance instruction for Boston youth and puts on the annual Urban Nutcracker production. In fact, I’ve even run into a few of my dancers here in the halls of the Mission Hill K-8 School! My experience preparing 100 dancers for performance has been a good training for volunteering in an active classroom of sixth graders.

What do you like most about mentoring?
Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience. Ms. DeCruz has been open and inclusive, putting me to work immediately and asking for feedback about the students.

Do you have any funny stories about mentoring with us?
The class recently started group and team building exercises rowing on the Boston Harbor. The rowing instructor told the class, “All right, I need you to leave your sixth grade selves behind.” One of the students said, “We can. We’re Poseidon’s children.”

Any inspiring stories?
Having the ability to volunteer several hours a week and give the students individual attention has had an impact. I see the difference in the students – they’re working together more cooperatively and collaboratively. In addition, we recently reviewed a math assessment and I believe the students are doing better academically as well as socially. It’s been a fantastic experience and I’m committed to returning to Ms. DeCruz’s class next year!

What are the benefits of being a parent serving in a classroom?
My experience with BPS has made me familiar with the school system and the curriculum. I know sixth grade math and can call on my eighth grade daughter to answer both academic and socially urgent questions like, “Who is Nicki Minaj?”

Has it helped you support your own child at home?
I knew that teachers worked hard, but being a volunteer in a classroom is amazing. The energy of the children and the demands on teachers are enormous. At home, the impact is mainly on me – it has inspired me to read up on educational theories around collaborative and effective learning. This has been a positive, joyful, and challenging experience.