‘Classroom grandparents’ helping kids, teachers at Muskegon elementary school

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich., -- In the middle of brightly colored classrooms and small children, there are two dedicated senior volunteers, giving back in their golden years.

90-year-old Jim Dietz retired after nearly 40 years working at a piston ring factory. His wife, 89-year-old Lillian Dietz, is a former bookkeeper. Together, the couple has spent nearly twenty years "working" at Orchard View Elementary, three days a week, from 9am-4pm.

"It's fun, it really is. I love the little children, and we get along great with them," Lillian told FOX 17 News. "I help the teachers where they want, but I also help with the kindergarten, learning the alphabet, learning their sounds, learning to count. First grade I sit and listen to them count."

"Grandma and Grandpa Dietz" as they're often called by the students, got their start when their own grandsons attended the school.  Lillian began helping out with a reading program. The following year, her husband joined.

"My grandson started me. He started over here and he said, 'Grandpa, why don't you come over to the school?' So I came and stayed," explained Jim. "I enjoy it. There's not a day that I've been over here that I wish I was someplace else."

That grandson is set to graduate college soon. Together, the couple has seen many more kids come and go over the years.

"They have old-fashioned values, that kids need to respect their teachers and need to respect each other," said longtime teacher Kathy VanMunster. "It's just been amazing because I don't know any 90-year-olds that would come and work with kids. And we've been able to give them so many projects to do, that they just do flawlessly, and they're faithful."

Whether it's reading to students, or repairing paperback books so the kids can enjoy them again, Jim and Lillian take on a variety of tasks, serving as an extra hand in the classroom.

"It frees me up to work with kids. It frees me up for many things that we do as teachers," said VanMunster.

While many students are anticipating summer break, the Dietzes are already looking forward to school next year.

"I keep coming back because of the children, really I just love the children," said Lillian.

Added Jim, " I wouldn't trade it for anything... If I can get up out of bed and move around like this, I'll be back next year. Because I'm not going to sit home and do nothing. I'm going to be here with these wonderful people."

As the Pay it Forward Persons of the Month, Jim and Lillian Dietz are receiving a $300 dollar prize.

Know someone who should be featured next month? Nominate them here.

Meet Steve Kozlowski, the April Pay it Forward Person of the Month.

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