Charlene Krenzke has found a great deal of joy volunteering at the Chatfield Elementary School.  PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Charlene Krenzke has found a great deal of joy volunteering at the Chatfield Elementary School. PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Charlene Krenzke's a page in a second grade read when she volunteers as a reading assistant in the second grade classroom where her daughter teaches at the Chatfield Elementary School.

"I try to instill in them that they need to read, read, read," Krenzke said. "Once they learn how to read, it opens the whole world to them. I try to be enthusiastic about reading and to get them enthusiastic about reading."

She explained how she became the school's Monday morning reading grandma who helps students gain literacy as they peruse the pages of their favorite books.

"My grandchildren go there, and my daughter recommended me to her coworkers - she's a teacher there, Mrs. Carmen Berge, and she teaches second grade - and I've always wanted to do this," Krenzke said. "I mainly go up every Monday morning for an hour in Carmen's classroom. I listen to the second graders read, and I go over their word lists with them."

Though the students don't seem to actually know Krenzke's name - "They just know whose grandma I am," she claims - they embrace her presence at the school and are willing to let her guide them through phonics and vocabulary mastery.

"I love it. The students are so great, and they try so hard," she shared. "It's rewarding to see the difference from the fall of the year to the spring of the year. It's the ultimate cool to volunteer at second grade. When you praise them and tell them how good they're doing, their eyes light up."

Not only is she teaching them, Krenzke says she learns something new every Monday morning, be it about reading or life itself.

"They'll teach you, that's for sure," she added. "Everyone is a teacher in their own way. I learned that they all have a sense of humor, that they will treat you with respect if you treat them with respect."

Krenzke added that she doesn't ask many questions regarding some of the informational tidbits they share about their families and life in general. With a grin, she said, "I don't ask too many questions, though, because I don't want to know all the answers."

In addition to helping out at the school, Krenzke is a member of the VFW Auxiliary. She has also signed up to volunteer at the care center, and volunteers by helping friends and neighbors who need her.

Her volunteerism with the VFW Auxiliary takes place mostly at the elementary school.

"A lot of my Auxiliary volunteerism has been at the elementary, organizing the fall Veterans' Day contest for the kindergarten through sixth graders, and now, it's the spring Loyalty Day contest for the same kids," Krenzke explained. "It's our job to teach them Americanism and patriotism."

She's also gotten to assist with several school projects, including one of her personal favorites, making ice cream with the kindergartners and first graders. "They made homemade ice cream in a bag, and they had a lot of fun doing it. I like ice cream...."

Krenzke concluded, "I highly recommend volunteering in the classroom with elementary students. They always make me smile, and they always put me in a good mood. I'm very glad, very happy with this, and I wish I could do more."