04-24-12: Carson Elementary volunteer enriches student learning
04-24-12: Carson Elementary volunteer enriches student learning

Like many school volunteers, Madeleine “Maddie” Names enjoys lending a hand in her son’s and daughter’s classes to help students learn math, do art projects, and become better readers.

But since she became a volunteer four years ago, Names has gone from helping in her own children’s classrooms to taking on school projects and roles that benefit all 950 students at Carson Elementary School.

“She is inspiring, creative, and shows how much she cares about helping students succeed and grow,” said third-grade teacher Kim Pisha. “She is an amazing asset to our school and our community.”

Principal Arturo Gonzalez added, “Mrs. Names truly exemplifies the type of volunteer that every school desires; for her no job is too small or too large when the focus is the kids. Her positive attitude and her intentional effort to build relationships among parents and staff directly contribute to a great learning environment.”

Names’ dedication to the school and its students has earned her this year’s Volunteer of the Year award at the elementary level. The Puyallup School Board presented her with an engraved plaque during a recognition at the April 9 board meeting.

As an active member of the school PTA, Names has chaired the annual art contest for three consecutive years. She encourages students to submit artwork, displays their work, coordinates the judging, and follows up on entries submitted to the district and state contests.

Names also stepped up this year to become the school’s Art Docent Coordinator. She oversees 15 volunteer docents who teach art lessons every other month in assigned classrooms.

Where there are classes without assigned docents, Names fills the gap.

“I want to make sure we get art in as many classrooms as possible,” she said. “It’s so important to a child’s development. It’s one area where all children can really feel great about themselves.”

Her goal is to expose students to a multitude of artists and art techniques, while at the same time having the lessons complement what students are learning in math, science, social studies, or other subjects.

Names recently taught third graders, for example, how to make construction-paper penguins with pointed hats. As she showed how to draw the shapes and patters on paper, she referred to obtuse angles and other math terms they were studying that week in class.

She also works with students throughout the school to make clay projects, which are fired in the school kiln. First graders, for example, worked side by side with her last month to glaze heart-shaped clay bowls they made by putting their handprints in clay and then molding the imprints into cupped bowl shapes.

One of her goals this year, she said, is to have all sixth graders make a multi-colored bowl with ruffled edges that resembles art by internationally renowned glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly.

Names isn’t afraid of taking risks with her art projects, even it requires extra setup or cleanup.

Last month she taught Pisha’s third-grade students how to use plastic droppers to squeeze small dots of paint onto a large white piece of paper. She then demonstrated how they could blow air into a narrow straw to scatter the paint in different directions.

The result was an abstract expressionist design similar to 20th-century American painter Jackson Pollock. Names discussed Pollock’s art techniques at the start of her lesson by projecting slides of his work onto a large screen.

“This is fun!” said Bailey Monta as she watched a drop of blue paint splatter in a jagged design to the far corner of the paper.

Names is also passionate about literacy.

“Reading is extremely important to me,” said Names, who has a daughter, Savannah, in third grade and a son, Wyatt, in kindergarten. “That’s the key — that’s the foundation to learning.”

An aspiring teacher, Names received approval this year to offer a free one-hour story and art time for kindergartners. The program is offered every other Frida after kindergartners finish their regular morning or afternoon kindergarten class.

More than a dozen students signed up for the reading and art hour, during which Names reads a story, helps students with a related art project, and then reads the story again.

Recently Names read “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” by Dr. Seuss and had students use oil pastels and watercolors to create oil resists of their fish drawings.

In third grade, Names has created a reading incentive program that encourages students in Pisha’s class to read and earn Accelerated Reader points. Points are earned by reading books and passing comprehension tests.

Last fall, she constructed a floor-to-ceiling paper tree in the corner of the classroom and hung a paper monkey for each student in the class. When a student earned five Accelerated Reader points, they could hang a yellow construction-paper banana from their monkey and continue earning bananas toward different rewards.

“They would all cheer for each other every time they got to hang a banana,” she said.

In addition to her volunteer work, Names gets paid to teach second through sixth-grade students how to cook in a Wednesday after-school program offered this spring through Communities In Schools of Puyallup. Names purchases class materials and receives a class fee from those enrolled.

What does she like best about volunteering? “All of it,” she said. “It’s fun to be engaged with students no matter what I’m doing.”