Schools, seniors both gain from experience

People 60 and older work during academic year

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Fifty-five years after he first started teaching, Gordon Goudy is still in the classroom. The 77-year-old Acres Green resident, among 100 enrolled in the Senior Employee Program, helps Acres Green Elementary fourth-grade math students four days a week for a few hours each time.

“I love it,” Goudy said. “I love working with the kids to bring out their potential, seeing them make progress.

“It keeps my mind going, keeps me from getting stagnant. Besides that, my wife likes it because it gets me out of the house.”

The Douglas County School District program, launched in 1989, has a permanent waiting list. Seniors earn minimum wage and work a maximum of 170 hours during the school year, usually in a school near their home, often in a school their grandchildren attend.

Goudy and about 25 other participants gathered in Castle Rock July 2 for the annual Senior Employee Program appreciation event, this year including a free magic performance at Castle Rock’s Theatre of Dreams.

It’s a small token of appreciation for a huge amount of work, said program coordinator Stacey Briggs.

“The average value of a volunteer hour is over $20 an hour, so $7.76 doesn’t even come close to it,” she said. “With budget cuts, I’ve had more requests the last couple years than I did when it started. The schools are thrilled to have them.”

Seniors are thrilled, too.

“Everyone wants to feel like they’re making a difference and I think they really do,” Briggs said. “Plus seniors tell me that little extra money every month really helps them out. The only sad part is there are so many people that would like to be involved and I don’t have enough spaces.”

Those who earn a coveted spot in the program’s ranks typically keep it.

“I have some that have been in for 25 years,” Briggs said. “They have to be over 60, so I have some that are over 85 years old that are still in the program. If the schools are happy and they’re happy, they can stay in the program as long as they like.”

Ruth Baxter just finished her second year with the program as a reading tutor at Parker’s Mountain View Elementary. It’s a natural next step for a woman who spent much of her career helping improve children’s literacy.

“I have this wonderful passion for struggling readers,” she said. “I love the interaction with the children.”

Sadie Bush is new to the program, just completing her first year working in the library at Castle Rock’s Clear Sky Elementary. She’ll be back in August to resume her duties.

“I retired after 40 years as a nurse; I didn’t want any more nursing,” she said. “A friend of mine was doing this and told me; I’m very grateful to her. I love my job.”