CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) — If you do a headcount of Mrs. Morrell’s kindergarten class at Clara Barton Elementary School, you’ll count 22 students, including a special honorary pupil, Joel Fleisher.
“I started in second grade, then I went to third grade, then I got demoted to kindergarten, and I am still the oldest person in Cherry Hill in kindergarten,” Mr. Fleisher said.
For the past 16 years, Mr. Fleisher has volunteered his time to helping students learn how to read.
“One of the kids just asked me if I live in a book house,” Mr. Fleisher laughed.
After working for the state of New Jersey for 41 years, he was ready for a new challenge.
“I retired, and then the Cherry Hill school board, maybe a year or two, maybe the same year, were looking for volunteers, and that’s what I did,” he said. “I volunteered to work in an elementary school.”
Call him a surrogate grandparent, a gift-giver, it’s clear what he means to this classroom.
“He is a part of this classroom besides from just reading to them,” said kindergarten teacher Chrissy Morrell. “He has come to events for kids who didn’t have anybody to come. He plays along with our games. Every holiday season, he wraps gifts for each kid.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Fleisher was the first recipient of the Heart of the District award by the Cherry Hill Board of Education. The award is for a volunteer “who demonstrates the heart of the Cherry Hill schools and uplifts all.”
“That really… it’s something,” he said. “I enjoy it. They didn’t have to do that. I’m not asking for anything like that. It’s the one-on-one time that’s really important, and they love that time.”
We say 3 Cheers for Mr. Fleisher for playing a role in helping our youth learn.
“One of the kids a couple years ago said to me, ‘Do you get paid for this?’ I said no, and he said, ‘You’re out of your mind,'” Mr. Fleisher said. “I enjoy what I am doing. If I didn’t enjoy what I’m doing, I wouldn’t be here for sixteen years doing this.”