School Volunteer Celebrates 90th Birthday At Fenner Elementary

From left, Dolores Thompson, also known as “Grandma Dee” and Nicole Seeley, a third-grade teacher at Harvey C. Fenner Elementary School, stand near a poster that breaks down 90 years into months, weeks, days, hours, minuters, and seconds. The poster is part of the timeline that led up to Thompson’s 90th birthday. P-J photo by Michael Zabrodsky

FALCONER — For Delores Thompson, being a volunteer at Harvey C. Fenner Elementary School is icing on the cake — literally and figuratively.

On Tuesday, “Grandma Dee” as she is affectionately known, celebrated her 90th birthday within Nicole Seeley’s third-grade class.

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Since 2012, Thompson has been part of the AmeriCorps Senior Foster Grandparent Program, and she volunteers three days per week and five hours per day at Fenner.

“I just love it because I like the kids and my teachers, ” Thompson said.

Seeley and her third-grade class have really bonded with “Grandma Dee” and they love her presence in class.

Students in Nicole Seeley’s third-grade class at Harvey C. Fenner Elementary School get ready to participate in computer time. P-J photo by Michael Zabrodsky

“I love everything about having her in my class. I love the fact that the kids really interact with her and get that really cozy, nurturing, loving, role model in the classroom all the time. So it’s wonderful to have her here a few days a week, and the kids literally cram around the table and just sit with her,” Seeley said.

Seeley said both worked with each other for three years before Seeley had to take time off. When Seeley came back, she invited Thompson back to her class, and the only way that Thompson agreed to come back was to have Seeley as a teacher.

According to americorps.gov, the Foster Grandparent Program helps guide students to higher academic achievement as well as caring for premature infants or children with disabilities, and mentoring troubled teenagers and young mothers. The Foster Grandparent Program connects role models with young people with exceptional needs.

“AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers who serve with in the Foster Grandparent Program provide the kind of comfort and love that sets a child on a path to a successful future. AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers themselves report better health and longevity having served their community,” the website noted.

As part of the celebration, Seeley adorned school walls with a timeline of important events leading up to Thompson’s birthday. With the timeline, Seeley said, she highlighted important events from 1932 to 2022, and included the top five to 10 events per year with a picture.

As part of “Grandma Dee’s” birthday celebration, Nicole Seeley made a poters that reads “Look who is turning 18 with 72 years of experience.” P-J photo by Michael Zabrodsky

Seeley said some students may take for granted the technology in their lives. For instance, some students may think a tablet or computer are used to connect to the internet via wifi. Some of those students may not know that before a wifi connection became popular, there was an ethernet connection, where a computer needed to be located near a cable box or phone landline for the connection, and before that, there was dial-up phone connection which used a landline and a modem for a connection that could be unreliable at times. When connecting, it sounded like a fax machine.

Before computers and writing applications, there were electric typewriters, and before electric typewriters, there were manual typewriters, so you had to have a supply of maybe some erasable bond typing paper. Now you just highlight a word, phrase or paragraph and delete it or cut it and then paste it somewhere else on the page. Imagine writing a school report with a manual or electric typewriter? You probably would go through a lot of erasable bond paper, but you may become a better typist in the process.

“It keeps my mind active,” Thompson said of volunteering.

Seeley said “Grandma Dee” helps students with their daily math activities as well as their reading activities.

“She keeps them on task and she also has her own (daily math) book to do. She does the third-grade daily work with us too,” Seeley said.

Seeley made two posters to celebrate Thompson’s birthday. One poster read “Look who is turning 18 with 72 years of experience,” while the other poster broke down 90 years into 1,080 months, 4,629 weeks, 32, 850 days, 78,840 hours, 47,340,000 minutes, and 2,838,600,000 seconds.

Thompson said Seeley is like her own grandaughter and she treats her like family.

“I’ve had darling teachers and Nicole is sweet. She is so really curious about her job,” Thompson said.


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