ALPENA - Wilson Elementary School recently named Dennis Moliterno as Volunteer of the Year. Principal Jean Kowalski said Moliterno started volunteering at Long Rapids Elementary, but is now strictly volunteering at Wilson a few days each week. She said he comes in and does whatever is needed at the school, but expects nothing in return.
"He helps with small groups, math, reading, and field trips. He does a little bit of everything, but he doesn't expect anything back. We're lucky to have him as a volunteer," Kowalski said.
Moliterno, who retired from GM and moved to Alpena, said he was inspired by his wife to start volunteering at Alpena Public Schools. He said spending time in an educational setting helping teachers and students was rewarding and helped fill his free time.
"My wife was my inspiration. She started volunteering at inner city schools in Flint. When I retired I came up here and needed something to occupy my time. I tried it and loved it, I love being around kids especially because my grandchildren are downstate. This really fills a void," Moliterno said.
Moliterno said he originally started volunteering at Long Rapids, but after the school closed he switched to Wilson, where a lot of the same staff members and children attended school.
"It's a nice small community," Moliterno said. "Everything I do is ultimately for the kids, but I like to help teachers do mundane things that take them away from the kids. I make copies, grade papers, help with make up tests, whatever the teachers need me to do."
Besides classroom work, Moliterno also assists with DARE classes, field trips, some computer issues, and extra math help and activities.
"Jean calls me Mr. Math," Moliterno said. "I work with kids on math. We stress math progression at Wilson. We either work on flashcards or play math games."
Moliterno volunteers two days each week, but said overall he is flexible with his time, especially when something is going on at the school.
"I also take care of my elderly parents at home, so I've got a full plate right now. I enjoy everything about it. It doesn't matter what I do, I'm here to help," Moliterno said. "I have great respect for educators, times are tough. Things are being cut, anyway I can help, I'll do it."
Besides "Mr. Math," Moliterno has another nickname around Wilson - The desk fairy. He got the name after putting little pieces of chocolate in the desks for small surprises, he said when students asked where it came from teachers would respond with, "the desk fairy."
"I really enjoy interacting with these kids. Fifth-graders were in kindergarten when I first started volunteering. I'm really going to miss them," he said. "I was flabbergasted when Jean mentioned (Volunteer of the Year) in the MVP assembly last week. I wasn't expecting it at all, I'm more of a behind the scenes kind of guy."
Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687.