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GREAT DADS GREAT KIDS
Program brings male role models into schools
, Courier Staff Writer
Saturday, April 19, 2014 5:00 AM
AN INVOLVED DAD: Jamin Tuttle gets high fives from students at Bedford Elementary School. Tuttle, whose child attends the school, is a Watch D.O.G.S. volunteer. The group of fathers help bring positive male influence into the school. Below, Tuttle talks with group organizer Mike Staley. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
Bedford school officials are working to fix a problem many schools around the country face - a lack of male volunteers.
Bedford Elementary School administrators hope to address the problem with a new program focused on bringing more dads and other male role models into schools.
The WatchD.O.G.S. - or Dads of Great Students - program at Bedford kicked off about a month ago during a "Donuts for Dad" event, the school's "Top DOG" and program coordinator Mike Staley said.
The program's concept is simple: Fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other father figures volunteer during a school day, serving as positive role models for students and providing a little extra help to teachers.
In return, fathers and father figures get to see what a student's day is like.
The nationally recognized WatchD.O.G.S. program began after school officials heard about the program from the National Parent Teacher Association about two years ago, Bedford Elementary School Principal Debbie Beeles said.
While dads and other males would often support after-school school activities and field trips, male volunteers just didn't seem to volunteer during the school day and interact with students.
"It's great to have a male role model in the school," Beeles said. "(A WatchDOG)'s like the hallway hero."
When volunteers are in the building, administrators announce the WatchDOG's name during morning announcements and encourage students to interact with the volunteer throughout the day.
Each volunteer wears a WatchD.O.G.S. uniform - a t-shirt with the program's logo - so school staff and students can identify the WatchDOG.
Then again, male volunteers aren't that difficult to identify in the school. Only a few men work at the elementary school, and students usually notice an unfamiliar face in the hallways.
"There's just not very many male role models in elementary school," Beeles said.
Jamin Tuttle heard about the program from his first-grade son, Landon, who asked him to volunteer as a WatchDOG.
A visit Tuesday was the first time Tuttle had actually volunteered at the school other than going on his son's class field trips.
"It just seemed like a good thing to do," Tuttle said.
After spending time in his son's classroom during the morning, Tuttle went to another classroom to help out with morning activities. He then transitioned to the next item on his schedule - helping with lunch room duties.
School organizers encourage students to give high fives the volunteer throughout the day, Staley said, and a lot of interaction comes during lunch time while WatchD.O.G.S. help monitor students in the cafeteria.
"They've said their hand hurts from all the high fives," Staley said.
After lunch - and plenty of high fives - Tuttle headed to different classrooms to help out in the afternoon. Volunteers get to see a small piece of their student's day, while also interacting with other teachers and students.
"The students, they really seem to like it," Staley said.
Four dads have volunteered for the program, but Staley hopes that number will grow after more men learn about WatchD.O.G.S.
"I've had pretty good response," Staley said. "The ones that have been here so far have really enjoyed it."
Other men have already agreed to volunteer as a WatchDOG, but it often takes a little time to coordinate schedules.
Each WatchD.O.G.S. volunteer also has to complete a background check to volunteer at the school.
"My goal this year...is to have a dad or male role model in the school each day," Staley said.
Tuttle said his experience with the WatchD.O.G.S. program is something he would consider doing again. And he encouraged other dads to spend a day at the school as a WatchDOG.
"It never hurts to have parental involvement," Tuttle said.
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