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October 24, 2017 06:07 PM

Grandpa Jimmy John

You're never too old for school. That's the sentiment at St. Katharine Drexel on the west side of Sioux Falls. Seven senior citizens are active in the classroom and the halls as part of a "Grandparent Volunteer Program." 

The students may call him "Grandpa Jimmy John," but he's no sub. 

"I only have one granddaughter, so this is kind of my substitution grandchildren here," Jim Cannon said. 

Cannon is a teacher's helper in Mrs. Sandman's first-grade classroom at St. Katharine Drexel. 

He's one of seven invaluable grandparent volunteers at the elementary school. 

Matt Holsen: Is it nice to have grandparents volunteering in the school?
First-grade student Garrett Olson: Yeah.
Holsen: Why do you think so?
Olson: Because they're great!

Grandpa Jimmy John, or Jim, thinks of his students the same way. That's why he's back for a second straight year. 

"I've had lunch with them. Been out to the playground. Had snowball fights, which you're not supposed to do," Cannon said. 

Luckily, that grandparent behavior hasn't landed him in hot water.

"Haven't been called to the office yet," Cannon said. 

A retired plumber of 40 years, Cannon calls his time at the school his "star of the week." His own granddaughter is already 17. So, when he was asked by the church if he'd be interested in shepherding a younger crew, he couldn't turn the offer down. 

"He likes to come out into the hallways with us and read our books and sometimes we have fun with that," Giselle Sinclair said. 

"I go in the stores and church now and I get this, out of nowhere, 'Hi Grandpa Jim.' It's quite the reward for showing up an hour a week with them. That's all I've done," Cannon said. 

It's a situation where you're not quite sure who benefits more: the students, the teachers, or Grandpa Jimmy John? 

"I really enjoy it. The kids really enjoy it and if I can help out the teachers, it's just something I can do," Cannon said. 

The Grandpas and Grandmas help students with activities including as one-on-one reading and math flash cards. They even help the kids practice praying.


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  • Elementary
  • Education
  • Sioux Falls, SD
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