Currently a math tutor serving young students, 86-year-old Roger Keller is helping others by leveraging his lifetime of experience, and then “sum.” A former farmer, then accountant, the Mesa, Arizona retiree is now multiplying his impact on the future leaders of his community by serving as a classroom volunteer.
As a volunteer with Your Experience Counts (YEC), a program offered through HandsOn Greater Phoenix, Roger has tutored hundreds of students and spent over 3,500 hours volunteering for the program in his 11 years of service. Sharing his wealth of knowledge and personal experience with the youngest members of his community, Roger is working alongside classroom teachers to ensure the academic success of each student.
What inspires you to volunteer?
The older I got, I felt I didn’t do enough to help our own kids in school when they were little. That’s at the heart of my volunteerism. Now, by working with kids in my community, I am able to help people out and improve the lives of these children. I felt God sent me to this service to help other kids, since mine are grown.
Describe your role with Your Experience Counts (YEC).
I volunteer in a third grade classroom and help the students through the school year. I’ll help on average 30 students, working with them on their math skills in order to keep them on track for success. I sit at a table in the classroom and I will call the students to my table to help them. I keep track of where every student is in the class, what they’ve passed and what they still need to learn, including subtraction and addition, then multiplication and division. We help them as they are stepping up the mountain of learning, I always say we need to get them to the top of the mountain! (laughs).
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
Before this year, I worked with a fifth grader who couldn’t follow along in multiplication, she couldn’t even count to 25. Some of the students we work with are learning English as a second language and are often behind in their schooling. I worked with this student on her math skills, and after awhile, she just bloomed. It was like seeing a flower blooming. At the end of the year she was getting all of the questions right on her multiplication test. I helped another student who is from Colombia, and he didn’t know any English when he arrived at our school. He wanted to teach me Spanish! (Laughs). Seeing students improve through my volunteerism is the biggest thing for me.
What’s one way you hope to inspire others in your service?
Kids will ask for help with division, or something else, but they’ll also come to my table to hug me and say thank you for my help. You know these kids are learning something, and there’s no paycheck in the world that’s better than the feeling that you’ve helped that child to a successful future.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
I sit here with tears in my eyes talking to you about this. It’s been rewarding to see these kids learn from zero to ten in one year. If they’re willing to learn, boy, I’ll push them and I’ll push them. Getting a thank you from a third grader? That just makes you want to come back again and work more and work harder.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
Success for kids. That’s hard to answer in one word.
What does it mean to know your service is helping children to succeed in school?
I’m a volunteer and also a positive adult figure in many of these children’s lives, which is helping to increase their ability and willingness to succeed in school. As a volunteer, I don’t feel as though I do a lot, but we’re helping children to succeed. Each year, I can’t wait for the fall to start school again.
How can readers help?
Please visit the HandsOn Greater Phoenix website for more information about how you can give back.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Roger Keller? Find local volunteer opportunities.