It’s the sort of setting in which Ann Gill thrives.
Pens, pencils, and paper are strewn about. Announcements and assignments are scribbled on white boards in blue and red dry-erase marker. In the hallway, children laugh and shout and do their best to prolong the short intermission between bells.
And while the classrooms at UMFS Charterhouse School in Richmond aren’t all that unlike the ones in which Ann used to teach, the children whom she now volunteers to tutor are.
“Other students I’ve worked with weren’t at-risk,” she said. “I don’t have any idea what these kids have been through.” Which is why the retired Chesterfield County and private school special education teacher keeps an open mind, an open heart, and is flexible in her approach.
If a tutoring session doesn’t get off to a good start, for example, Ann will seize the opportunity to simply spend time with the student. “I let them know I’m here, first and foremost, because I want to be here,” she said. “I enjoy being here with you.”
That sort of positive reinforcement is critical to a child’s development. Pair that with consistency and sincerity, Ann said, and it often yields favorable results. “I love teaching, but more so I love to see students come out of their shell and their confidence grow.”
Homeschooled for a time, Ann’s own six children are well aware of their mother’s innate ability to reach kids. That’s part of why her son Patrick recruited her into his classroom.
Before coming to Charterhouse School in 2016, Patrick taught students with neurological differences but hadn’t worked with behavioral issues. With support from colleagues and after the discovery of the movie Resilience, Patrick said he was able to more effectively reach his students.
The methods introduced in the movie “made more sense than raising my voice,” Patrick said. So much sense, in fact, that he took his parents to see a screening of the film so they’d have a better understanding of the children he was working with. “Incredibly interesting and enlightening,” Ann said of the movie. “I had no idea of the effects of trauma on children.”
Patrick said the work his mother is doing with his students is invaluable, noting an often new-found enthusiasm within those students for having work checked “because they know they have the right answer.”
But beyond books, there’s something even more Ann offers to students at Charterhouse School.
“It’s important for students to know and see our relationship,” Patrick said. “To see that family dynamics can be positive.”
Added Ann: “When children know you love them, they can learn from you.”
UMFS volunteers like Ann offer children a remarkable opportunity to not only learn, but to build relationships. Click here to learn more about the various volunteer opportunities.