“They call me Grammy,” Dorothy Parker said of the D’Iberville Elementary School students all around her as she sat next to her grandson in the cafeteria.
Parker has become a bit of a celebrity these days.
The Harrison County School District honored her as Parent of the Year at a recent ceremony, in recognition of the time and commitment she gives to students at the school.
Parker started coming to the school two years ago when her grandson entered the first grade. As a volunteer, she has helped students with their reading comprehension and vocabulary skills.
Though much of the traditional classroom supplies — including books — can now be accessed on computer tablets such as iPads, Parker said the ability to comprehend and understand is timeless. Her message to students is straightforward.
“If you can read, you can go anywhere through a book,” she said.
Parker also spends time with the children by lunching with them in the cafeteria. She has gotten to know her grandson’s peers.
“I feel a strong bond with the children,” she said. “I know all their likes and dislikes. I’m a safe place for them. They feel free to tell me anything. As long as they can feel safe, I get enjoyment out of that.”
Parker has also developed a close bond with the teachers, especially third-grade teacher Molly Thies.
“She’s a very important part of the school community,” Thies said of Parker. “Myself and other staff have come to rely upon her.”
Grammy has become such a familiar face around school and at the annual book fairs and fundraisers that she is often recognized outside the school. She said students often yell out her name.
“Whoever I’m with is like, ‘Who is that?’ I tell them those are my students,” she said.
She recalled the ceremony honoring her at the district’s central office. She had no idea she would get the Parent of the Year award. In fact, she said, she thought it would have more to do with her volunteer work at the elementary school, not the entire district. Then Superintendent Roy Gill called her name and presented her with a plaque. Parker said she was humbled.
“I don’t do it for the accolades,” she said. “I really enjoy it. You’re only young once.”
Grammy also will get a special place in the school yearbook, so “students will always remember her as someone who instilled in them a love for lifelong learning,” said Harrison County public information officer Trang Pham-Bui.