Donna Johnson Honored with Utah AmeriCorps Seniors Service Award

December, 2021

Donna Johnson was honored with the Utah AmeriCorps Seniors Service Award in recognition of her outstanding service as a Foster Grandparent at King Elementary School in Layton.

LaiLoni Elggren, 4th grade teacher at King Elementary, provided the following nomination:

“Donna has been coming to my classroom now for about five years. She comes at least twice every week and stays all morning (3-4 hours each time). She even came every day during COVID outbreaks in 2020 and 2021. This was amazing to me since none of the kids had been vaccinated yet and many kids had been sick. It was dangerous for everyone to be exposed daily, let alone someone that hadn’t had the opportunity to be vaccinated yet and was above the age of 50. Donna came anyways! She faithfully wore her mask and continued to serve. Wow! Talk about putting your own self at risk to help so many little ones. That is super star material!

While Donna is in my classroom, she works with many of my hardest students on reading and social skills. The students beg to go and work with her. She makes learning fun and is easy to talk to. Many times, students just need a listening ear. Donna is the best at this. She can take a child that is struggling to sit still, socialize with others, or is just having a bad day and turn the day around for the kids. For example, here at King we are a Title One school. That means we often have kids that come to school without breakfast and proper clothes. Donna has contributed many, many times to my breakfast granola bar collection out of her own money! She takes kids on walks and takes care of their basic needs first and then can work on academics with them. I have seen kids double in reading levels and enthusiasm for coming to school just by working with her. I don’t know what I’d do without her help.

Even when Donna Johnson isn’t in my classroom, she continues to care and take care of the kids. She often e-mails me later what she observed or learned (things that a regular teacher with so many students cannot get to). This has helped me better understand a student and their specific needs. She remembers all names too, so if she sees any student from the past years, she greets them with a name and smile and asks how they are doing. I have seen many walk taller because they know they are loved.

I can give Donna any task and she willingly tackles it! I have been amazed at the things she teaches me language wise. For example, I have all the English as a Second Language (ESL) students in my classroom (sometimes 5-10 a year). Donna speaks near fluent Spanish and understands many other languages. This has been helpful when I cannot figure out how to communicate with certain kids. It is also fun to have Donna share where she has traveled (because as we all say…she has been everywhere in the world). She can understand and tackle most communication/custom barriers that I might not be aware of. As a teacher, that skill is a lifesaver!

Donna not only helps my class, but many other teachers at our school with various reading skills. I was extremely lucky to have “stolen” Donna as my friend and weekly helper in class. I don’t know what I would do without her help! I call Donna my superhero because all the wonderful, extra work she does for me and my students as a volunteer. Everyone is always in awe when they hear she doesn’t get paid for doing all she does…she is a diamond in the rough!

For these and many other reasons that words cannot express, I want to nominate Donna Johnson for this volunteer award. She deserves a million dollars! Thank you for sending her to King Elementary!”

The Foster Grandparent Program provides opportunities for seniors age 55 or older to help children who have fallen behind in reading, writing, and math skills. They help children in schools and in the Head Start program. The one-on-one daily attention the Foster Grandparents provide is the heart of the program. While improving the lives of the children they serve, Foster Grandparents also profoundly enrich their own lives.

Learn more about serving as a Foster Grandparent here. If you are in northern Utah, check out opportunities to serve in Davis County here.