[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteers. This article is sponsored by Cox Communications, a Partners in Education President’s Council member.]

The students in Griselda Orozco’s third-grade class leaned in and listened intently as Aliece Magnusson read them The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

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Magnusson spends time every Tuesday afternoon at Canalino School in Carpinteria as part of Santa Barbara Partners in Education’ Volunteer Recruitment & Coordination program. The program pairs businesses, professionals and community members with classrooms and nonprofit organizations in need of tutors, mentors and after-school homework helpers — just to name a few.

“I first became acquainted with the organization through my daughter-in-law, Michelle Magnusson, who is the program manager for Partners in Education,” Magnusson explained. “Michelle was looking for volunteers in Carpinteria, and asked me if I would like to get involved in the program. I was excited about volunteering and giving back to the schools that my own children had attended!”

Magnusson and her husband have raised five children — now ranging in age from 19 to 34 — in Carpinteria. Education has always been important to the family; all of Magnusson’s children have obtained college degrees.

Magnusson is proud to be the longest-serving member of the Partners in Education volunteer program in Santa Barbara County.

“This is my fourth year volunteering in a third-grade classroom with English learners,” she said. “I listen to them read, help them with pronunciation and word definitions, and I time them to see how many words per minute they read.”

When asked if she had one memorable experience, she exclaimed: “Seeing the children beg their teacher to be able to read with me.”

That was her first positive memory, and she added, “That has happened every year since, and just yesterday, it happened again.”

“I have felt that one of the most important things I can do (besides, help them to read and understand the English language) is to help them feel good about themselves,” Magnusson said. “I smile and compliment them a lot. I make reading a positive experience for them. I boost their self-esteem. That gives them confidence in their ability to read.

“Now that I time them, I make that into a game (I time them reading the same passage three times) we can all enjoy.”

Asked to name her favorite book as a child and if she remembered her favorite teacher, Magnusson responded with Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mrs. Black, in the second grade.

Do you remember your favorite teacher, your favorite teacher’s aide, or classroom helper? Sometimes it makes all the difference.

Santa Barbara Partners in Education believes that the future of our local, state and national economy depends on the ability of local schools to prepare students for reaching their full potential. The organization also believes that the success of the schools depends on the involvement and support of the entire community.

“It takes all of us to improve our community, because a community is only as healthy as its children and its schools,” Magnusson said.

Thank you for your time, your example, and your generosity, Aliece.

Cox Communications is a member of the Partners in Education President’s Council, a group of local businesses, organizations and individuals who support Partners in Education with contributions of at least $2,500. Any company or organization has the opportunity to participate in Partners in Education, but the President’s Council is limited to no more than 30.

» Click here for more information on Santa Barbara Partners in Education.

» Click here for more information on how to become a President’s Council member or contact Michelle Magnusson, development and membership director, at 805.964.4710 x4417 or mmagnusson@sbceo.org.

» Click here for a related article from Partners in Education board president Lynda Nahra.

» Connect with Partners in Education on Facebook.

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— Suzie Zimmerman is an AmeriCorps volunteer who has been working as a Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteer coordinator. Both AmeriCorps and Partners in Education are programs of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.