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Retired Willmar, Minn., teacher still feeling the call of the class

Frances Hendershott, a school volunteer, left, helps Kowsar Kosar navigate through an iBook lesson at the Willmar Middle School. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — Learning English, adjusting to a new culture, learning American history — Willmar Middle School teacher Ann Hendershott knew it was a tall order for some of her Somali students.

And she knew just where to turn for some assistance. The solution was as near as her own family full of teachers.

Frances Hendershott, 79, a retired first-grade teacher and Ann’s mother, comes to the Middle School every school day to help Somali students in her daughter’s eighth-grade history class.

The students she has worked with are highly motivated and are learning English quickly, Frances Hendershott said.

 “It’s been a real pleasure to watch them,” she said. “They have improved.” She said she hopes the students will continue on in school and take advantage of all the opportunities available to them.

She started volunteering at the request of another Middle School teacher several years ago, she said, and she worked with a few Somali students who were struggling.

Ann called her in September and asked if she wanted to help out in her classes. “She knew I liked working with that population,” Frances Hendershott said.

“I think it’s healthy for us to get out and volunteer,” she said, “to do something to feel like you’re contributing.”

When Frances arrives at the classroom, Ann will say, “Hi, Mom.” Now, some of the students call her Mom, too.

“It’s a blessing having her here, and the kids are so good to her,” Ann Hendershott said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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