When Donna Stephen retired as principal of Windham Primary School, she didn’t stop being an educator. Her efforts as a volunteer for Junior Achievement of Maine were recognized in mid-October when she was named the 2014-15 Volunteer of the Year.
Junior Achievement (JA) is described on their website as “the world's largest organization dedicated to educating students in grades K-12 about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.”
All JA programs are taught by volunteers. “Our main goal is for students to be making connections between what they are learning in school and what they can do in real life,” said JA Maine President Michelle Anderson.
Stephen taught JA classes throughout the school while she was principal, and continued her involvement in her retirement, teaching the program in her grandchildren’s classrooms. When they moved on to the Manchester School, she went too, but the primary teachers still wanted her in their classrooms as well.
She has taught up to 15 classes a year, more than any other volunteer in the state, according to Anderson. “Donna is a shining example of a volunteer,” said Anderson. “She takes the curriculum and makes it her own. We are so grateful to have her.”
Stephen was honored at a volunteer thank you event, hosted by PROPEL, a young professionals group Anderson said has a strong connection with JA. Stephen is very well received by the teachers in classrooms, Anderson said, and is willing to go wherever she is needed. “She is a huge asset to our organization,” Anderson said.
Stephen said she believes in the JA curriculum completely, and feels it is a much needed missing link in education. She also said she thinks it’s good for children to see other people who believe in education coming into their classrooms.
The teachers understand the value of the JA curriculum as well, she said, and have been flexible in their scheduling to accommodate her needs. She added that she’s pleased that Windham has been involved in JA since the early 1990s.
Stephen was informed before the event that she would be honored, allowing her the opportunity to invite friends to celebrate with her. “I was delighted and I felt quite honored to have this award,” she said.
JA Maine is always looking for volunteers, said Anderson, since they try not to say no to any teacher who would like JA in their classroom. “The beauty is anyone can volunteer because everyone has unique life and work experience to share,” she said.