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Retired special education teachers volunteer storytime

January 21, 2019

PRINCETON, W.Va. (AP) — Some people work a job their whole lives and it is nothing more than a job. When it is time to retire, they spend that time focusing on passion projects or hobbies. Other people have the privilege of finding a job that is their passion.

Carole and Russ Cassidy, retired special education teachers, found their passion in life through their work and continue to pursue it into retirement.

Carole started teaching at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind before moving to southern W.Va. Her husband, Russ began teaching children with visual impairment in Mercer County and Carole taught Physical Education. Russ retired after 39 years and Carole retired after 40 years.

“One of the things is in retirement we just did not want to be sitting and not doing anything,” Carole Cassidy said. “We tried a couple of things and they were not meant for us.”

Soon, they found the Princeton Library’s children’s storytime program and immediately wanted to get involved. They have been volunteering there for two years.

“One of the reasons also is that we are retired and we wanted to volunteer in something we knew about and the library is just down the block from us and when we found out it was children, it was yes right away,” Carole Cassidy said.

“We were blessed, they came and found us and asked to volunteer,” Rebecca Marrs, Children’s Librarian at the Princeton Library said. “They started out with a couple story times and decided to come back.”

Marrs said that the Cassidy’s participation in storytime has added a whole new dynamic to the program. She said the kids love the retired special education teachers and are able to interact on a better level. As for the Cassidy’s, Marrs said that if they notice that a child needs more encouragement to participate, the couple is there to help.

Marrs began the Children’s Storytime program at the Princeton Library about seven years ago. The programs, Book Babies for newborns to three-year-olds is held on Thursday and the Preschool program is held on Friday.

Storytime begins with stories being read by Marrs, then a crafts and activities time.

“The kids sit on the floor and benches and they listen to her and the kids will get restless, and they said it is no problem for them to be working puzzles while they are reading,” Carole Cassidy said. “The older kids, Rebecca usually has arts and crafts for them to do first, then they can play with the foam pieces, she has stuff that matches up with the season. Many of the kids are just learning to stay in the lines and some of them have just learned to do that.”

The Cassidys and Marrs both emphasized that they do not expect the children to sit still during storytime. They understand that children can listen while also playing with puzzles and blocks. “Usually we do a lot of sign language,” Marrs said. “We want to build their linguistics and we do hands-on motor skills with them to help with special thinking. We do not expect them to sit still and we want to keep them engaged and encourage them.”

“I think Rebecca really likes how we interact with the children after she has done the reading of the story and so forth, we get down in the floor and watch as kids put legos together and tell us what they are trying to build,” Carole Cassidy said.

Carole and Russ Cassidy have extensive training in education and love what they do. Carole, who is visually impaired herself, went to the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind and then received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Madison University.

Of her time teaching a the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, versus volunteering at the Princeton Library, Carole said, “Russ and I would go and see the kids and work with them on brail and CCTV and those kinds of things, special needs kids we were so used to but these little kids have just won our hearts.”

“That (playtime) is a time for them to use their imagination and play together and with adults and that is the reason we are there and seeing their imagination and all of that is wonderful,” Carole Cassidy said. “I love seeing kids and their imaginations, for example with the legos, I ask why did you make a robot and they explain it to me and the imagination is so good and then they have learned to share much better, so it is a good program for that kind of thing.”

Storytime is on a hiatus until springtime, but Marrs said there will be intermittent storytimes during the annual break. The entire storytime program is free to all participants. “They learn from us, but more importantly they learn from each other and how to work with their peers,” Marrs said.

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Information from: Bluefield Daily Telegraph, http://www.bdtonline.com

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