Compassionate Caitlin, 826michigan's January 2021 Volunteer of the Month

January 6, 2021 | 826 Blog Post

Caitlin Koska has seen many sides of 826michigan, and she’s been a superstar volunteer for a while now. In 2015, she designed and co-led a workshop entitled “A Writeable Feast: Flavorful Food Writing,” where writers used all five senses to write odes, reviews, and love letters to favorite foods. As a classroom teacher at Maybury Elementary in 2017, Caitlin partnered with 826michigan for a five-session program called “Surveyors of Space,” where students harnessed the power of their imaginations to explore new planets; their work resulted in a beautiful coloring book. Caitlin has served as an advisor on our Educational Advisory Committee, a kind, compassionate, and thoughtful feedback-giver, and most recently, one of the trustiest, most dependable, and most outstanding Virtual Field Trips volunteers known to humankind.

Let’s talk for a minute about Virtual Field Trips. Caitlin has volunteered at every single Virtual Field Trip we’ve run this year. Yes, you read that right: even during a global pandemic, Caitlin has spent over sixteen hours supporting field trips with 1st through 5th grade students. And Caitlin doesn’t just sign up; she shows up. From participating in the pre-program huddle where we review the lesson plan, to the field trip itself, where Caitlin expertly facilitates small groups of students as they think creatively as writers, to the post-program huddle where she shares insightful feedback, Caitlin exudes authentic enthusiasm and presence. Her joy for learning and working with young people is contagious. She is a teacher in the truest sense of the word, finding ways to dive deeper with students and 826michigan staff while uplifting everyone around her.

One example that illustrates Caitlin’s positive attitude is from when we decided to introduce the idea of having a volunteer take on the role of “illustrator” during Virtual Field Trips, either through drawing on an online whiteboard or Googling images to accompany our writing. About two minutes before we started our field trip, we asked Caitlin if she’d pioneer this new role. She gamely agreed to this unexpected request, embodying the 826michigan successful volunteer approach of being courageous. In the end, Caitlin helped create whimsical and fun illustrations that made the students’ writing come to life. 

That was the second field trip we ran this semester; now, our field trips almost always include the role of volunteer illustrator, which Caitlin chooses to play with good humor and ingenuity.

We could go on about Caitlin; how she always shows up right on time with great input; how she thoughtfully uses the Zoom chat feature to engage with quieter students; how she cheers for everyone around her, from students to fellow volunteers to 826michigan staff. We’ve been so grateful to be able to work with Caitlin this year, and we can’t wait to keep diving into Virtual Field Trips with her this semester!

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