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.
Jane Hans, volunteerToday you can read about Jane Hans. In addition to her work with Boston Partners in Education, Jane is a member of Senior Corps’ RSVP program – America’s largest volunteer program for people age 55 and over. Older adults, particularly those who are retired, are a wonderful resource in the classroom. Beyond the fact that they can often give a bit more time than the average working volunteer, they come with a wealth of experiences to share with the students.

Jane began volunteering with Boston Partners in November of 2011. She is a whole class volunteer in Ms. Hernandez’s first grade class at the Sarah Greenwood K-8 School in Dorchester, through our School Volunteer Program. She gives one day a week (and is considering adding a second!) for about three hours each day.

How and why did you become a member of RSVP?
I received an e-mail from Boston Partners in Education with information about the program and thought “Oh yeah!” The connection to a larger volunteer community was what struck a chord with me. I wasn’t as concerned about the reimbursement (RSVP reimburses members for travel and small expenses and provides supplemental accident insurance while on duty.) When I realized I could contribute my reimbursement to the Sarah Greenwood, I decided that I definitely wanted to become a member.

Where did you work before retiring?
I did a number of things. Most recently I was a producing artist- a sculptor exhibiting in public spaces. Before that, I owned and ran a bookstore, and prior to that I obtained a graduate degree in counseling and school psychology, a field I worked in for ten years.

What other charitable work, if any, do you do?
I currently also volunteer at Horizons for Homeless Children. Over the years, I’ve been involved with many organizations, including the Elizabeth Stone House, Rosie’s Place, and WarmLines, Newton.

As a classroom volunteer, do you find yourself working with the entire classroom, or coming back to specific students?
I never work with the entire classroom at once. Ms. Hernandez eased me into doing more individualized tutoring with the students. At first, I floated around the classroom and responded to kids who were working on various projects. Over time, Ms. Hernandez has given me more specific assignments. She has a set up ready for me when I arrive, and immediately puts me to work. Last week I worked continuously with different small groups of kids on one task or another. I’ve been more directly involved in teaching recently and I really enjoy it. I like to be active and busy in the classroom.

What do you like most about mentoring?
I like working with small groups- I love the contact with the kids and seeing them light up when they get something- seeing them understand, seeing them make progress. The communication and the interaction I have with the children is very satisfying.

Do you have any inspiring stories?
The teacher I’m working with inspires me. I’ve worked with kids professionally in different capacities throughout my life and I have three children and four grandchildren, yet I never spent time in a classroom except as an occasional drop-in as a parent. Ms. Hernandez runs a very structured first-grade classroom. Sometimes I think, “Oh my goodness, that’s so strict!” but over time I’ve come to see that within that very clear structure, there’s a tremendous amount of latitude for the children to express themselves and interact with the group and be seen as individuals. I’ve found that really edifying, and wish I’d seen it 50 years ago when I was bringing up my own children.

Ms. Hernandez also consistently communicates with great clarity, and the benefit of this to the children is tremendous, they know what is expected of them.

A special thank you to Anique Langlois, RSVP Administrative Assistant, Commission on Affairs of the Elderly for conducting the interview with Jane!