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Teaching through storytelling: Volunteer Eisenhauer honored for six years of service

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
NEVADA APPEAL | NEVADA APPEAL

When Maryellen Eisenhauer read from “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” to third-graders Friday at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School, it was more than just a story.

“When she reads to us, it feels like I’m on a journey – just like Edward,” said Gwen Jimenez, 8. “It feels like I’m in the story. I just imagine it.”

The tale written by Kate DiCamillo traces the adventures of a rabbit named Edward. His experiences help transform him from a self-absorbed hare to a compassionate bunny.

“He learns important things,” Eisenhauer said. “He learns to care about other people besides himself. And the students get it.”

And that is why she reads to them.

“Being a child is an adventure in itself,” she said. “They are on a journey, learning a little bit every day. I think when they learn these important life lessons in the form of entertaining literature, it means more to them than me just telling them.”

Eisenhauer was honored for her volunteerism this week by the Carson City School Board. She was given a plaque to recognize the six years she’s spent reading to Janet Hughes’ students.

Hughes said Eisenhauer’s visit every Friday is a break for students from their routine tasks and standardized tests.

“What she brings into a classroom you can’t teach in a book,” Hughes said. “What she does, you can’t score that. It’s like sitting on a couch reading with your child.”

And the way she reads makes the story come alive.

“She’s a very good reader,” said Hannon Callahan, 8. “She has expression when she reads it. Like, when someone’s speaking quietly, she speaks quietly. And when they talk loud she’s like, ‘aaaaah,'” he said, raising his voice to mimic hers.

To be able to do that, Eisenhauer said, she reads the book before going into the classroom and rereads the passage for that particular day the night before.

“I have to know the story well,” she said.

The training comes partly from the

35 years she spent teaching in Maryland and California and overseas in Japan and the Philippines.

Part of it is her passion.

“I love it,” she said. “I believe children profit from good literature.”

She’s sure anyone could do it.

Hughes disagrees.

“I don’t think you could sit anybody in this chair and do what she does,” Hughes said. “A lot of the kids wouldn’t sit still for that long.”