Working friendship

Kindergarten teacher Heidi Zenger (left) and foster grandparent Esther Ketcham share a friendship as a result of working with children for 13 years.

A special friendship started on a cold winter day in January, 13 years ago. Esther Ketcham was introduced to Heidi Zenger, kindergarten teacher at Lathrop Street Elementary, Montrose. The purposes of the introduction was so Esther Ketcham could serve as a foster grandparent in Zenger’s classroom and help with struggling students; those who could use a little extra help in their studies, making friends, or who just need a hug and a listening ear.

Foster Grandparent Esther Ketchum writes: “I started with the grandparent program 13 years ago. It turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done. I was placed with an awesome teacher Heidi Zenger. We have been together in kindergarten ever since. She has become a good friend and together we are at the point now of finishing each other’s sentences. (Foster grandparenting) has been a great experience, the school, Heidi and the students make my day. I love it.”

Heidi Zenger, kindergarten teacher, writes: “Many years ago, I was asked to consider having a foster grandparent in my kindergarten classroom as a helper. I immediately said, ‘I don’t think I can have someone in my room every day, what if we don’t get along?’ After a little pressure from my co-workers I finally gave in and said yes. I can honestly say that the simple ‘yes’ has been life changing for me and my students.

“The past 13 years have been the best 13 of my career because of Esther. She not only helps me every day in my classroom with various duties, but she works with my students and makes a difference in their lives, too. She comes in every day with a smile on her face and a hug for the kids, ready to tackle what the day throws at us.

“I am not sure why I ever hesitated thinking we wouldn’t get along; it has been a perfect fit since day one! She and I are now finishing each other’s sentences and we share the ups and downs in our classroom. Esther is an amazing person that my students and I are blessed beyond measure to have in our lives. Not only is she my classroom right hand, but she is a treasured friend.”

Maybe there is a friendship to uncover in a classroom near you. The Foster Grandparent Program may be what you are looking for. The Foster Grandparent Program provides classroom opportunities, a small monetary stipend, transportation reimbursement, paid time off and paid holidays to income qualified people 55 years and older.

For more information about the Foster Grandparent Program, call (locally) 570-265-6121 or (toll free) 1-800-982-4346.

The Foster Grandparent Program is federally funded by the Corporation of National Community Service. The Foster Grandparent Program is sponsored by the Area Agency on Aging for Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Tioga counties.

The B/S/S/T Area Agency on Aging, Inc. is funded in part by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging; the United Way of Bradford County; the Lycoming County United Way serving Wellsboro and southern Tioga County; the United Way of Susquehanna County and the Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna, and Tioga County Commissioners. For additional information on Area Agency on Aging services, call 1-800-982-4346.