LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – At least twice per week, you can find Patty Waddell at Little Rock School District’s Baseline Academy. The teachers there refer to her as Momma Waddell because she has always been there to take care of whatever they need.
“The principal, Pamela Freeman, started calling me Momma Waddell the first day that I came. Everybody calls me Momma Waddell here and it’s a great thing. I love it. I love being Momma Waddell,” Waddell said.
She also loved reading with students. She recently created a book club with five students who were reading above their grade level. She said it gives them a chance to read additional books and excel.
“That brings me great joy because I do love to teach and I have missed it,” Waddell said.
She is a retired teacher. Several years ago, she decided to join LRSD’s Volunteers in Public Schools, or VIPS. The program has been around for decades and served as a link between the district and the community.
“It’s one of the greatest joys of my life,” Waddell said. “Serving, I think is what we’re here for, to serve each other and it’s my pleasure that Principal Pamela Freeman will let me come here and do what I do.”
While Momma Waddell spent a career in teaching, that is not a requirement to volunteer with VIPS.
Jennifer Bagwell started volunteering this school year. She does not have any children, but she wanted to get involved.
“I love kids. I love to read. I always was way into education and I loved school when I was little and I just wanted to share that with them and read with them and just have a lot of fun and make them happy,” Bagwell said.
VIPS volunteers do not just have to work with children. They can also help decorate the hallways and teachers’ bulletin boards, but for Momma Waddell and Bagwell, the smiles and the hugs from the kids keep them coming back week after week.
Click here for more information on how to volunteer with Volunteers in Public Schools.