Saturday, July 06, 2002

Frost reading helper gets A+

Despite two jobs, she finds time to volunteer

By Janet C. Wetzel
Enquirer Contributor

        Theresa Knox was constantly on the go, holding down two jobs. But when she heard that mentors were needed in a local school district, she knew she had to give it a try.

        Even with her busy schedule, Ms. Knox figured she could find time for the Helping One Student to Succeed (HOSTS) mentoring program in Mount Healthy City Schools. It only requires 30 minutes once a week.

[photo] Theresa Knox works with Frost Elementary School third graders Corina Scott and Ryan Palmer as a mentor Monday.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        Instantly, the Forest Park resident was hooked.

        She adjusted her work schedule and became a super mentor, volunteering at Frost Elementary School all year, four days a week, 90 minutes a day.

        Ms. Knox, whose nickname is Tee, soon became a familiar, beloved figure in the school. When she walks down the hallway, some say she looks like the Pied Piper, with a trail of students following her calling out, “Ms. Tee, Ms. Tee.”

        “She's just incredible, a very dedicated mentor,” said Kausha Mehta, a HOSTS and an intervention teacher at Frost. “We have 42 mentors in HOSTS, including students and parents. They're all wonderful, taking time to give of themselves. But Ms. Tee's outstanding. Mentors typically come for 30 minutes, once a week. She's the only one that comes four days a week. She stays 90 minutes each time, even while working at two jobs. She sets an example for everyone.”

        Ms. Knox has no children, but said she knows how to be one. She readily gets on the floor and plays with the children; she brings them small gifts. She worries about the students she mentors and takes a personal interest in them, sometimes outside the school, especially if they seem to have a special need, Mrs. Mehta said.

        The community-based HOSTS is a one-on-one reading program, which also focuses on a certain skill for the day with lessons prepared in advance for mentors. The program, in four of the district's five elementaries, continues on a smaller scale this summer.

        Ms. Knox's mentoring began last September when Bob Hassler, a co-worker at Hillman Fastener, Forest Park, returned from a Community Involvement Committee meeting and told of the need for mentors.

        “I'm a kid at heart, and I knew instantly this was something I needed to do,” said Ms. Knox, who also works part time at Lowes in Springdale. “I get a lot from the children. I just love being with them. My most precious gift is when I get hugs and kisses from them. I call them my little beasties.”

        When her students scored well on proficiency exams, “I was sooooo proud and excited,” said Ms. Knox, who is an expert in various collectibles, including salt and pepper shakers, and volunteers her time to help people determine the value of their items.

        “This has really made me deeply admire and respect teachers and other educators.”

        Mrs. Mehta said they need more like Ms. Knox.

        “I told her I'm not letting her go. I have to have her back next fall. She said she will be ready,” Mrs. Mehta said.

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