Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

Always going above and beyond: Paige Wilson


Kevin and Paige Wilson and their two daughters.

School teachers are arguably some of the hardest working people with one of the most difficult, but important jobs. A top complaint that many educators have is that they are expected and forced to fill too many roles at once, stretching their time to be not only educators, but counselors, planners, purchasers, often with their own funds, and social workers.

So when a parent or community member volunteers in the classroom, that act helps ease some of those burdens, freeing up our teachers to do what they set out to do: teach our kids.

And while every volunteer deserves accolades, this month’s Left Hand Laurel goes to Paige Wilson, a parent volunteer at Niwot Elementary School (NES).

According to NES principal Nancy Pitz, Wilson is a “parent volunteer extraordinaire” who not only helps out in the classrooms, but also takes care of the staff whenever she can.

Wilson routinely brings in coffee and snacks to different staff members just to let them know they are appreciated. Pitz is able to see the overall impact of Wilson’s efforts, much of which includes organizing and set—up, both things teachers just don’t have enough time for.

Wilson set up the staff work room after construction was complete, labeling and organizing everything to make life smoother for the teachers. Organizing is one of her gifts, as she also set up and organized the entire Makerspace in the school media lab, and also tackled the organization of the storage spaces and closets in the classrooms.

“She willingly came in to help organize my classroom closets after moving into a new classroom,” said 2nd grade teacher Regan Burke. “She did this out of kindness and knowing I have little time to get to organizing my stuff. She knows my time needs to be with the kids!”

To help the staff and student body pull off Genius Hour, an inquiry-based time when students explore and research their own passions, Wilson not only helps fund Genius Hour, but she also takes the kids’ shopping lists and purchases the things they need for their projects. She also gives of her time, almost on a weekly basis throughout the year, to assist the students with their Genius Hour projects. As the final preparations of their projects near crunch time, Wilson comes in during those final few weeks each day of the week, pulling kids aside in groups or one-on-one, to help them conceptualize and then finalize their projects.

Aside from the typical--and always appreciated--donations of snacks and art supplies to the classrooms, Wilson also volunteers in the classrooms, helping with math, reading and writing.

“Paige is the kind of person who would do anything for anyone,” said Kelly Bernhardt, first grade teacher. “Paige doesn't wait to be asked to help - she is intuitive and offers help before you even realize you need it. Paige is tireless in her efforts to support the staff and students of Niwot Elementary—she is here for all of us. She knows that if one of us succeeds, we all succeed, and she does everything she can to support us in everything we do.”

Wilson is married to her best friend, Kevin, and has two girls, Braegan (8) and Riann (4) and her desire to assist at their school benefits more than just them. Her volunteerism makes use of many talents, such as helping the kids learn to bake cornbread during a field trip to Four Mile Historic Park, or helping students that are visual learners by creating color-coded math posters to display in the classroom.

“Paige is a volunteering chameleon,” said Bernhardt. “There really isn't anything she can't or won't do to help literally anyone in the building. She gives of her time and energy generously and frequently, and brings positive energy and laughter with her when she comes to help.”

“Paige is the type of person that I can give an idea to, and she will run with it,” said teacher Burke. “She always goes above and beyond. She created posters for our math class that I can display for my students to better understand the key concepts for that topic.”

But for Wilson, it’s part of who she is, or rather, who she is rediscovering she is. Wilson was a dentist until a major congenital brain issue caused her vision to completely change. That and the resulting surgery forced her to leave her practice and struggle with daily symptoms that force her to “rediscover ‘who’ I am,” she said.

“I think I will always be uncomfortable with not getting up and driving to my practice,” she said, “But I get the privilege to see my girls way more than my original plan.”

“I love being busy, but I can’t commit to a regular routine since my brain and eyes need a great deal of TLC. So I do what I can when I can,” Wilson said.

Her desire to put her efforts into volunteering at the school is fed by both her beliefs and her past experiences with her health.

“I have very strong feelings about teachers, especially biased towards Niwot teachers and staff, and their under-appreciation and under-pay in conjunction with the over-abundance of tasks, expectations and constant needs of their students and families,” she said. “If I can take away one item off a list, give a small gift, help in a class, share my knowledge to one fantastic kiddo, make a system more efficient or just be there for my own girls, I win. Something I learned while I laid in bed for almost one year, unsure if I was going to be witness to the next, (was to) have a generous and kind spirit because it is really good medicine. Just by showing up when you can, offering your best, expecting nothing in return, authentically being present and being seen, accepting your weaknesses but magnifying your abilities, showing love and appreciation and making your possible difference, life can be really great even when there is so much that makes it difficult, frustrating and unfair.”

Her kind and generous spirit was once again on display last Friday at NES. It was pajama day, and one little boy had forgotten. According to Pitz, Wilson was volunteering and noticed how sad the student was that he was the only one in regular clothes. She immediately went to the store to buy him pajamas so that he could participate with the rest of his classmates.

While the staff is beyond appreciative for Wilson’s generosity of spirit and time, the feeling is mutual.

“Niwot Elementary is a rare gem,” said Wilson. “From Mrs. Pitz to every single teacher, paraeducator, wrap-around staff, counselor, janitor, lunch helper, bus driver or volunteer, this school is providing an educational and cultural experience that is beyond compare.”

Wilson has no problem recognizing her blessings and sharing them.

“Getting sick was not in my plans. I guess it never is,” she said. “My new life mantra is a quote from Arianna Huffington: ‘Always treat life as though it is rigged in your favor.’”


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