Jan Mishler, Pacific Elementary

Challenge Accepted

Jan Mishler is no stranger to volunteering. Aside from her 45 years in the radiology department at Kaiser, she was also a full-time pastor’s wife—a nonstop job. “It was a lot of volunteer work with the church,” she says, “a lot.”

Perhaps she’s simply got a helping nature, or perhaps she’s used to filling her time doing whatever she can to serve her community. Before she joined Experience Corps, she spent ten years after retirement volunteering at schools in her grandchildren’s classrooms, and doing “a lot of grandchild-taking-care-of.” While she loved being around the kids, the monotony of classroom support began to wear on her a little bit.

“When you’re volunteering in your grandchild’s classroom, it’s cut-and-staple and help-kids-go-to-the-bathroom,” she explains. “There’s really not a whole lot of educational value in it for the kids.” Eventually, she volunteered to help her middle grandchild’s class read, a Kindergarten class at the time. “That was a challenge,” says Jan. “A lot of them come to Kindergarten without any reading skills.”

This experience sparked something in Jan. When she felt challenged, she felt more connected, and she felt like she was giving more to the classroom and students. She began looking for other opportunities to continue the trend.

“Right before I got hooked up with Experience Corps, I thought, Gosh, I’ve gotta do something that’s interesting. So I found the ad in the paper and the rest is history.”

Jan certainly has risen to the challenge, tutoring both first- and third-grade students at Pacific Elementary. While not always easy, Jan’s passion and dedication have created some pretty special moments in her tutoring groups. Her favorite thing about tutoring, she says, is when a student finally gets it.

“When they start plowing through a page, when they want to read first before you read to them—my kids say, ‘I want to read it cold!’ That meant they wanted to learn and they wanted me to know that they could do it.”

Jan considers herself a pretty normal person. “I’m kind of ordinary. I love working in the garden, I used to drive go karts, I guess, and I’m a good cook, and I spit watermelon seeds across the room—my grandkids think that’s kind of fun.”

But sitting in on her sessions—whether it’s during her pre-session breathing exercises, her mid-session dance/wiggle breaks (she has perfected “the floss” this year – see the picture above), or overhearing a little bit of singing during a choral read—you know there’s nothing normal about what’s going on. In fact, it’s something pretty special.