Becky Ann Sammons knew exactly what she was doing when she planted the courtyard garden at Putnam Elementary School.
She chose flowers she thought were beautiful, of course, but she also picked plants with fun names – Butterfly Bush, Scabiosa and Spilled Milk, for example – so kids might be excited to learn different plant varieties and read the labels she carefully put in front of each one.
Sammons, who the students know as “Mrs. S.,” is one of thousands of PSD volunteers who donate their time to schools throughout the District. As National Volunteer Week begins April 15, the District is recognizing these generous community members for their hard work for students. PSD has more than 20,000 active volunteers, nearly 4,500 of whom have logged volunteer hours this year.
These volunteers create one-on-one learning opportunities for students and build relationships with them, Putnam School Secretary Melissa Rivera said.
“We have volunteers in here every day of the week,” she said. “They know our kids, know our families and have really made themselves a part of our Putnam family.”
Anne Garrison is another one of those volunteers. Every Thursday morning for the past five years, she has come to Putnam and copied lesson plans, worksheets and handouts for second grade teachers.
Then, she grabs a quick lunch and heads over to Tavelli Elementary School to help the teachers there.
“I see how much I can get done in an hour or two, and for (teachers) that would mean coming in early or staying late,” she said.
Whether these volunteers are making photocopies, assisting in a classroom or planting a garden, their efforts make a big difference for staff and students. At Putnam, Sammons’ hard work is easy to spot as kids make their way to class. Dozens of yellow daffodils line the front doors, and by the flag pole, a small garden full of bright pink flowers honors a Putnam employee battling breast cancer.
“She has created a whole new environment for our building, and that creation of a new physical environment has really changed the way our students engage with our environment,” Putnam School Secretary Melissa Rivera said. “They learn outside, take breaks outside, and have a beautiful place to be in.”