Playground : Q&A with Michelle Jordan

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Michelle Jordan, the volunteer coordinator at Windham Primary School, has been selected as one of three statewide winners of the Maine Principals Association 2017 Service to Maine Youth Award. 

WINDHAM – Michelle Jordan, volunteer coordinator at the Windham Primary School, is one of three people statewide who is receiving an award this year from the Maine Principals Association in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the welfare of Maine youth. 

The MPA chose Jordan as one of its 2017 Dr. Phyllis Deringis Service to Maine Youth Awardees in part because of her effort to help raise more than $50,000 to update and improve the Windham Primary School Playground.

Jordan, of Windham, has been the school’s volunteer coordinator since 2011. Though her own children are now in fifth grade and middle school, she has continued in her volunteer position at the primary school.

She spoke with Lakes Region Weekly about what she does and her playground project.

Q: What is your role at the school? 

A: We’re a large school, there are 824 kids in this school from K-3, so there are a lot of needs that volunteers can fill. In my role, I help find those people to assist for things that are sometimes one-time events, sometimes they are short-term projects. Teachers schedule volunteers that come into their classrooms on a regular basis, I assist with everything else.

So, I help with the food clinic, the picture days, sometimes teachers have special projects – they might need books sorted. We’ve done sewing projects where parents helped. Sometimes a student might be struggling, say, with math facts and they get some one-on-one support just to help get over a particular challenge. So I’ll help teachers find volunteers to help in those smaller, short-term situations. 

Q: Can you tell us more about the playground project? 

A: So four years ago, we started … the school was still using the original playgrounds from when the primary school was built. Which, at this point, the school is 27 years old.  So we were playing on equipment that was over 20 years old. There was some discussion about finding a way to fund the replacement of the playground.

I spoke with (principal Kyle) Rhodes and suggested a fundraising campaign to help supplement the cost of the playground and make it a playground that we really need and that the kids could be really excited about. 

We did that, we went to the school board, and they agreed that if we raised half of the money of the project, then they would help support the other half. So we started a fundraising campaign and in 18 months we raised $57,000. And we also did the construction of the playgrounds with volunteers. We saved over $10,000 in labor costs by installing the playgrounds ourselves. 

Q: Do you have trouble getting volunteers, or is there usually an army of folks? 

A: It’s typically pretty easy. If you make a general call out for assistance, I actually often end up with more people that we need. 

It’s also not just parents. We get a lot of grandparents who volunteer. We have a great relationship with the high school, and we’re able to bring a lot of high- schoolers over to help our volunteer efforts. 

Q: Did somebody nominate you for the award? Did you know that you were in the running?

A: I didn’t know. Dr. Rhodes was the primary nominator, and the nomination required support from two other people. So Kim Hartwell, who’s a parent, she wrote a letter for the application. And then Marge Govoni, who’s the chair of the school board, was the second person who was part of the application. 

Q: So it was a pleasant surprise, then?

A: It was. I think even if I had just been told that they had nominated me, just that in itself is an honorary thing for people to take the time to fill out an application and write a letter – just that alone is an honor and exciting for me. 

When I got the phone call last week, it was definitely overwhelming a little bit. But I’ve always felt here that the work that I do is appreciated. I’ve always felt like people are saying thank you. I have posters that kids have made from the playground.

We’re definitely in a supportive environment here. But I just think it’s exciting for, really, the school and the program to get recognized at the state level for the work that we do here supporting our kids. 

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Michelle Jordan, the volunteer coordinator at Windham Primary School, has been selected as one of three statewide winners of the Maine Principals Association 2017 Service to Maine Youth Award. 

Michelle Jordan helped raise money for the playground pods at Windham Primary School.

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