By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
As a school volunteer, Cherie Englebart brings smiles to young faces at Dieterich Elementary School Tuesday and Thursday mornings throughout the school year.
Last week, the retiree took a group of energetic second graders to the “Roadrunner Room” and put them through their paces on spelling, reading and math exercises. The children were enjoying the attention with help for their learning.
Englebart coaxed the students in different ways through their exercises. During the spelling drill, she had them sound out the words or helped them visualize the combination of letters, for example pointing out the curl in one of students long hair when the word had some students stumped.
Instead of using computers, the students were using erasable markers on flat marker boards, helping them understand the intricacies of cursive writing – some fear such writing is dying out today with young nimble thumbs constantly clacking away on social media devices.
Making connections to help the children with their work is what Englebart enjoys.
“There are stories in our reading book that are about animals and we’ll talk about them. If there are big words in the stories they don’t understand, I’ll help explain them,” Englebart said.
At times, the relationship between the students and Englebart is more than teacher and student. It’s as if she is talking to grandchildren, which is not surprising because her grandson, Xavier, attends fourth grade at DES. Watching the spelling lesson, it became obvious there is affection between the pupils and their mentor.
“I kinda always had a passion for teaching,” said Englebart during an interview days before she worked with the Dieterich students. “The second graders here are very smart kids. They have taught me you always have to listen. Many times kids will tell you what affects them as you work with them. It might be that they’re sick or they are in different moods. You have to pay attention.”
The Montrose resident has offered help for four years to teachers at the school. Her efforts are appreciated by the teachers with large classes in second grade this year.
“We have her work with them if they have missed work or some need extra practice. She works with them in groups or one-on-one. She can offer a lot of one-on-one attention to students,” said Dieterich second-grade teacher Gina Koester, who has 28 students in her classroom this school year.
“Cherie is especially good with students needing extra help. That is why her volunteer work is vital,” said Valerie Niemerg, who has 27 second graders in her classroom.
This is not the first time Englebart has helped a young student in a school. Ten years ago, she volunteered as a mentor for a third grader in Effingham. Mentors offer friendship, advice, an ear to a child’s questions and more. Now, she is ready for watching that student accept his diploma at Effingham High School.
“What is rewarding about the mentoring program is seeing children grow and seeing what they learned in school,” Englebart said. “I added to that when I shared my life from growing up on a farm.”
She grew up southwest of Altamont. She had four siblings. Their farm harvested grain and raised livestock, which could provide wonderful memories for a family of curious children.
“Being part of a family with several siblings is my best memory of growing up,” she said.
For a time, her family members attended a country school in Fayette County because their farm was close to the county line. Then in high school, Englebart attended Altamont High School.
Her gradual move to the northeast continued after she met her husband, Gary, at the Crystal Club, which once offered plenty of hoedowns west of Teutopolis. Gary Englebart was from Teutopolis. They married in 1971 and later purchased a house in Montrose. Cherie had gone from where the sun sets in Effingham County to where it rises.
She was busy with raising a family and working in the accounting department at Samuel Music Company in Effingham for 27 years before she committed to different volunteer work. Her first volunteer effort started with the Silk Purse. She now works with the HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, where she helps with filing and mailing for the home nurse hospice group. She also finds time to work as treasurer for the village of Montrose, which is a part-time job.
“I now tell people I’m busy because I volunteer,” she said. “Anytime I can help someone, I’ll do my best.”
She believes more people should join in as volunteers throughout the county.
“If more people would help out, they would have so much to offer,” she said.
And the rewards, as she has learned, are precious.