As a former third-grade teacher (but really, are you ever former?!), education and students have a very special place in my heart. As the mother of two daughters – one a teacher herself – I have participated in their schooling and watched them learn and thrive as they grew older. My husband, Gary, has always believed in servant leadership, and we try to get involved in the community as much as we can. It’s funny how opportunities to get involved sometimes just fall into your lap, especially one that merges our enthusiasm for education and students with our commitment to giving back. It was serendipitous that recently, Gary and I were out to dinner and met a very nice gentleman named Ray. Ray had recently moved back to his childhood neighborhood in South Dallas and started volunteering at the elementary school that he attended. Ray is very committed to the students at JN Ervin Elementary School and finding ways to help the kids understand that the world is a big place, education is important, and there are a lot of career opportunities if you work hard. In order to achieve this, Ray volunteers at the school each Friday and often asks community members to come in and read to the students. Gary and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate National Volunteer Week than to help Ray with “his kids,” so a date was scheduled, and we turned to the important job of picking out great reading material.
In April, the day arrived and we went to read to Ms. Boren’s first-grade class. We decided to read Curious George Feeds the Animals, Froggy Rides A Bike, and We’re Going On a Bear Hunt, but before we jumped into reading, we introduced ourselves and told the kids a little bit about ourselves, including where we are from, how we met in grade school, and that we went to an elementary school just like this one. Now, it was on to reading. The kids really enjoyed the stories, especially Gary’s frog voice as he read Froggy Rides a Bike. Then we got to the really fun part – for me – which is the questions and answers. I am constantly awed by children’s enthusiasm, thoughts, and general creativity – I couldn’t wait. The kids asked fun questions like where did Gary work, where did we live, and where do airplanes come from. They also asked how we got to the school (drove, didn’t fly a plane!), how a plane is flown, and how do you get to be President of Southwest. As we looked at their bright, smiling faces we made a point to tell them that whatever they want to do when they grow up - a teacher, a Pilot, a sport star, or President of Southwest Airlines - the most important thing to do is to stay in school and study hard.
It was great time spent at the school. And it reminded me that what you hear is true – you always get back more than you give. I encourage everyone to get out, volunteer an hour of time to whatever your passion may be, and practice the Servant Leadership for which Southwest is known. I love being part of the Southwest family and feel fortunate to contribute in some small way to the great reputation Southwest has in the communities we serve.
Happy Volunteering, Everyone! And a heartfelt thank you to my fellow teachers, past and present!