‘Grandma’ earns education honor

FAIRMONT – Many of the staff and students at Fairmont Elementary School don’t know Janette Werner’s name, but her presence usually evokes shouts of “Grandma!”

Werner has been named one of this year’s Friends of Education by the Fairmont teachers union.

“I come in to do reading with the kids; this is my sixth year,” Werner said.

She began volunteering when her granddaughter, Sydney, was in the second grade.

“When I started, they asked me what I wanted to be called, and I said Grandma,” Werner said.

The title stuck.

Elementary teacher Joice Forster nominated Werner for the honor.

“She’s so dependable,” Forster said. “The kids love her. She’s encouraging and loving and kind to them.

She even dresses in costume for the various holidays, such as a leprechaun for St. Patrick’s Day.

Other elementary teachers are aware of Werner’s reliability, and some have asked Forster to “share Grandma.”

“And everybody calls her Grandma. Nobody knows her name,” Forster said.

Werner’s services are in such demand that she spends about three hours a day at the school, listening to students read to her.

“Last year, I had five classes, but this year I only have three,” Werner said.

“Wherever they need me, I’ll go. I absolutely love it – seeing how [students] improve – and I can tell the kids that have been read to as babies. They excel,” she said.

She downplays the monetary savings for the school, due to her volunteerism.

“I don’t worry about what it’s worth. It’s the enjoyment I get,” she said.

The teacher’s union annually selects an individual and a group for the Friends of Education Award. This year, the committee for Safe Routes to School received the group award.