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Beyond the Books: value of volunteering on full display at Nixon Elementary School

Volunteer Tomi Fuchs serves a breakfast to select students in Nixon Elementary School's cafeteria to celebrate positive behavior.

The walls of Nixon Elementary ooze the school colors of green and yellow, an aroma filling the air on this particular morning inviting visitors to breathe in the Bobcat Pride.

The cafeteria transformed into a French toast fan's feasting zone, with volunteer Tomi Fuchs providing select students with a bountiful breakfast to celebrate good behavior.

"Our school uses PBIS, Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, to help promote positive behaviors in the building," explains Rebecca Long, an alternative kindergarten teacher at Nixon. "Once a month, we draw two kids from each class in the school. They're rewarded and they get to bring a guest to have a special breakfast, celebrate their behavior."

Nixon students aren't the only ones being recognized for their efforts, as Fuchs is earning the award of Cedar Rapids Community School District's Outstanding District Volunteer, joining 30 other Outstanding Building Volunteers -- one from each school within the district -- at a recognition ceremony on April 24 at the Educational Leadership and Support Center.

As a volunteer, Fuchs said she didn't ever imagine she'd be honored with an award, but simply served at the school as a way of giving back. However, she said there is a lesson to be learned through the recognition.

"You may not think it, but you are being noticed," Fuchs said with a smile.

Fuchs has a daughter who attends Nixon, which fueled Fuchs' involvement with the school.

Fuchs not only serves as support for staff, but also works as president of the PTA.

Spending between 20 and 30 hours on a given week, Fuchs said the breakfast preparation to recognize positive student behavior takes about 12 hours.

"I shop, I cook, and take care of everything," said Fuchs, who prepares a meal for around 100 people, including students, their guests, and staff. "The PTA does cover the funds for it, but I take care of all of it -- bring it in, clean it up."

Along with monthly breakfasts, Fuchs also does bi-weekly popcorn parties, organizes book order pamphlets, sharpens pencils, and provides classroom support.

Asked why she serves for free, Fuchs pointed to the budget.

"They need this stuff done and they don't have the money in the budget to pay people to do it," said Fuchs. "If it's just one thing I can that I can do to alleviate, to help so that they can focus those funds on books, technology, anything else to better the enrichment for all of our children, because this is our future we're talking about."

Long said teachers know they can count on Fuchs, which makes the job a lot more enjoyable.

"Anything we go to her with, she'll get it done instantly for us," said Long. "When you're a teacher in a building and there's a lot of kids around you everyday, and you're trying to manage everything, and you feel the support of your colleagues and the parents and especially the volunteers who come in for no pay, it really brings you up."

Fuchs said her devotion is a way to repay teachers for their hard work.

"It makes me feel like I'm giving back when all the teachers give to all my kids all the time," she said.

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