We want to thank you in advance for volunteering at Estrella Mountain Elementary School. The teachers, students and staff greatly appreciate the time you are willing to share through your volunteer work here. You will add greatly to the educational experience of our students. Becoming a volunteer in whatever capacity you are able to, is very rewarding!! 

If you are interested in volunteering, Cougar Community Volunteers (CCV) will host a volunteer orientation soon at Estrella Mountain. 

Call us at 623-327-2820 to reserve a place.
Please join us to make a difference!!

Cougar Community Volunteers

Who are we? 
Cougar Community Volunteers are parents of students, relatives of students, and community members who want to contribute to Estrella Mountain Elementary School’s goal of providing the best possible education for each and every student.

How do CCV volunteers make a difference at EMES? 
Our CCV volunteers:
*Help make sure students get onto campus safely in the morning and leave campus safely after school
*Assist supervisors during the lunch and recess periods
*Assist in the office and the media center
*Assist in classrooms by working directly with students or doing jobs that give a teacher more time to plan for and teach students

How much time does it take?  
From 30 minutes to several hours – only one day per week.  You choose.

Will I get trained?
We host Cougar Community Volunteer orientations at regular intervals during the school year.   Anyone who volunteers at EMES (even if it’s in their child’s classroom) is required to attend a CCV orientation.

How do I get assigned to a volunteer opportunity?   
You decide where and when you volunteer at school.

How do I learn more about Cougar Community Volunteers?
Call or email Suzanne Wold at 602-451-4748 / Suzanne@WoldSoldHome.com

Sarah Soltow
Submitted by Cougar Community Volunteers     November 2016

Ms. Sarah Soltow moved to the Estrella community in April 2014 from West Virginia where she enjoyed a career as a high school English teacher and was most recently employed as an elementary school counselor. Once settled here, she set about acquiring her AZ teaching and counseling credentials. As a result, she is a certified Guidance Counselor in the state of AZ as well as a certified English/Language Arts teacher. Enjoying the flexibility that substitute teaching allows, she’s filled in for various Liberty Elementary School District teachers as well as subbing for the Buckeye Union High School District. But this year, she’s decided to switch that up somewhat in order to contribute in an area that holds more appeal for her.

“When I began working as an elementary school counselor in WV, I thought I’d died and gone to job-heaven,” she recalls with a smile. “Even with the difficult issues that children sometimes have, I simply enjoy working with elementary students as a counselor and help them understand the sometimes tricky emotional paths of life.”  And with another smile she adds, “My husband called me a Professional Grandma. And that is what it kind of feels like. I can offer children a kind of unconditional acceptance of who they are, and, at the same time, offer them ideas and suggestions that encourage them to help make their own situations better through better thinking and better choices.”  It soon sounds like a win-win situation for all.

Ms. Soltow is a member of Cougar Community Volunteers at Estrella Mountain Elementary School.  She is the “Counselor in the Classroom” and hosts “The Lunch Bunch” at school twice each month.

Cougar Community Volunteers welcomes new volunteers.  To check out this great opportunity to make a difference in our community, please stop at Estrella Mountain Elementary School or call the front desk at 623-327-2821.

Michele Tucker, Cougar Community Volunteer at Estrella Elementary
January 2017

I grew up in Illinois, went to college at St. Joseph’s College in Indiana and moved to Texas with my first professional job as a corporate management trainee for Burlington Northern Railroad.  I met my husband through the railroad, and he lived here in Estrella.  Ultimately, I enjoyed a 19-year career with what became BNSF Railway, enjoying positions in sales, marketing, and especially as the director of Market Research and Customer Insights at their headquarters in Texas.  After the birth of our third child (in Texas), I found the work-life balance becoming so challenging, that I decided to quit and we returned to our home in Estrella last year.

I have noticed a difference in the school systems here, but I think, in part, it is due to the fact that Texas has large, well-coordinated independent school districts that ensured consistent curriculum and instruction from K through 12.  Getting familiar with the lack of state funding for education in Arizona, the separate over-rides and elementary districts and high school districts, and the reason/need for these was and is a learning curve.  In the end, it heightened my awareness for the critical need for community activity and volunteerism in our schools.  

When we moved back to Estrella, we looked at both Westar and Estrella Elementary Schools, which are both good schools.  In the end, we settled on Estrella for a variety of reasons, but as a parent, one of the attractions was the Cougar Community Volunteers and their integral involvement at the school.  We were also attracted by the IB program, its global context, and the learner profiles that focus on being principled, caring, open-minded, inquirers who are also reflective, balanced thinkers, communi-cators and risk-takers. Who wouldn’t want your kids embracing THOSE qualities!  Another great program is FITNESS FRIDAYS - I love that our specials teachers get our kids out into the community - hiking the trails, running around South Lake - just enjoying Estrella and what it has to offer.  How COOL is that?!  My kids love it.

On a weekly basis I volunteer on Tuesday and Thursday mornings on the Kindergarten playground before school, and an hour or two each Thursday in Kinder and 3rd Grade classrooms.  I’ve also had the opportunity to be a visiting Greek philosopher and to help the 3rd graders in their Greek Comedy/Tragedy performances this winter.  Finally, I’ve helped edit the A+ School of Excellence application that EMES will be submitting soon.  Volunteering helps me connect with my kids, their teachers and their classmates on a more consistent basis.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the kindergarteners especially - what a joyful bunch!  From an intellectual standpoint, helping with the A+ application has given me an outlet to still use some of my more “professional” talents that you kind of miss using when you leave the workforce.  I also appreciate the interaction with the students, teachers, administrators and other volunteers.  There is a strong community vibe at EMES and I appreciate that.

I’m proud to be part of the “village” that is raising these kids.  It’s a plus that volunteers are of all ages and circumstances.  In particular, I love the growing number of retired volunteers.  My father and both of my husband’s parents have passed, and my mother lives in Illinois.  The willingness of this key part of our community to volunteer their time and talents in retirement is encouraging to me, and my kids have really connected with these “adoptive” grandparent figures.  Thank you all!!  What a gift you are to us.

I want to thank Mrs. Marine, the teachers and staff at EMES, and Cougar Community Volunteers for all working together to create a strong community at EMES where they are truly working to "Build Intelligent and Compassionate Leaders.”

Counselor in the Classroom
Submitted by Cougar Community Volunteers             November 2016

It’s only two days per month, but for many children, it could make a big difference.
This school year, the Cougar Community Volunteer (CCV) organization is helping to develop a Counselor in the Classroom program for the students of Estrella Mountain Elementary School (EMES). The program comes in the form of a semi-retired, professionally certified School Counselor, Ms. Sarah Soltow, who is interested in bringing her particular skill set to EMES students.

According to principal, Ms. Sharon Marine, EMES has been without a school counselor for the past four years, and the year prior to that, the school shared a counselor with Rainbow Valley Elementary.  She attributes the lack to, “Budget cuts.  Our reading program was cut as well, and we lost some classroom teachers, librarians, and para-professionals.  This is a state issue.  It started when the state decided not to fund the inflation factor, which was mandated by the voters of the State of Arizona in 2000.  The inflation lawsuit was recently settled with the taxpayers approving Proposition 123 in May, which allowed the state to only pay back a fraction of what was owed to the schools.”  

It is precisely this gap in funding and services adversely affecting our schools’ staffing that Cougar Community Volunteers (CCV) is designed to help.  Last year, CCV provided 3,462 hours of services to our students in the areas of morning/afternoon crosswalk monitoring, lunchtime cafeteria and recess monitoring, classroom and media center volunteering, and reading support programs with the help of a core group of 33 volunteers.  As we are all aware, it takes a village to raise our children, and CCV has stepped up to help make that vision a reality. The addition of a part-time volunteer counselor at EMES is a great benefit to the school.  All benefit from these services - children, teachers, and other staff.

The Counselor in the Classroom will visit grades K – 3 with a variety of stories and activities that are designed to help young children identify and understand their emotions. Additionally, they will be introduced to strategies to help them deal effectively with negative emotions that arise in all of us, such as anger and frustration. Ms. Soltow will also spend some quality lunch time with various older students (grades 3 – 6) who may respond positively to a one-on-one relationship with an accepting adult in a relatively non-structured environment.   

CCV is excited to be able to bring this opportunity to EMES students. 

What’s the Buzz about IB?
February 2018

This year, Estrella Mountain Elementary School (EMES) celebrates the fifth year of its International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) for kindergarten through fifth grade classes.   The International Baccalaureate Organization is based in Geneva, Switzerland with regional offices around the world.  The IB program was originally created as an inquiry-based standardized, rigorous, internationally recognized curriculum to serve the children of diplomats and business people abroad, as well as international families. Now, there are IB schools around the world.

The EMES IB Program is dedicated to all areas of student development – physical, intellectual, emotional and ethical, as expressed in the IB Learner Profile.  Learning experiences are created to help students develop the characteristics of the IB Learner profile.  Teachers and staff model the characteristics of the Learner Profile every day.

IB Learner Profile  IB learners are:
Inquirers: develop their natural curiosity; acquire skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning.  Knowledgeable: explore concepts , ideas and issues that have local and global significance; acquire in-depth knowledge; develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.  Thinkers: exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems; make reasoned, ethical decisions.  Communicators: understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication; work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.  Principled: act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities; take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.  Open-minded: understand and appreciate their own culteurs and personal histories; open to perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities; accustomed to seeking and evaluating am range of points of view.  Caring: show empathy, compassion and respect toward the needs and feelings of other; demonstrate personal commitment to service; act to make a positive difference in the lives of others and the environment.  Risk-takers: approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought; have independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies; bravely and articulately defend their beliefs.  Balanced: understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.  Reflective: give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience; assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.

If you are inspired by the Learner Profile, you may want to volunteer at EMES for as little as 30 minutes each week.  You can check out CCV, the adult volunteer program, by stopping in at school or calling the front office at 623-327-2820.

It Takes a Village
April 2018

Fourteen IB Junior High Academy volunteers from Estrella Mountain Elementary School teamed up with the school’s PTO and Cougar Community Volunteers (CCV) to host an activity for kids and raise money for the EMES After-School Tutoring Program and a new gaga ball pit.
The week prior to the event, CAP (Cougar Assisting Program) in-school volunteers assembled the prizes – several surprises in a gold or silver plastic egg.

On-site student volunteers set up and managed an Egg Balance Obstacle Course using colored cones borrowed from Mr. Kennedy’s physical education class.  They invited young attendees to run or walk the obstacle course while balancing an egg on a serving spoon.  With the very youngest of participants, student volunteer guides showed the way through the course.  At the end of the course, all participants received a gold or silver eggs filled with prizes.
To raise money for the EMES After-School Tutoring Program, students sold chilled water.  The After-School Tutoring Program is geared to third grade readers, who are invited to join tutoring sessions with a specific teacher several times per week for about 45 minutes after the regular school day is complete.  Cougar Community Volunteers raised the money to fund this year’s program and has set a goal to double the funding amount for the upcoming academic year.  This year, and in past years, the EMES After-School Tutoring Program was scheduled for Spring, prior to “testing season” at school.  If CCV doubles the funding for next year, EMES will be able to extend the reading tutoring sessions, or add math tutoring, depending on the need of students.

PTO volunteers raised money to purchase a gaga ball pit by selling raffle tickets for a fabulous Lake Powell vacation.  Gaga ball might be described as a kinder gentler variation of dodge ball played with a foam ball in an octagonal enclosure that is 24” to 30” high and 15’ to 25’ wide.  It is a fast-moving game that, unlike soccer or volleyball, does not require a lot of practice or skill, and is therefore known as a “great playground equalizer”.  

CCV Volunteer - Gina Simmons
Submitted by Gina Simmons              October 2016

Let’s start at the beginning of why I enjoy my volunteer position in tutoring reading at Estrella Mountain Elementary School. Two things from my childhood come to mind. My grandmother was very influential in my becoming a teacher and volunteering. She was only 4’10” but always positive and always helping others through both church and community events. But more importantly, she was always encouraging me that I was a special person and had much to offer. My teachers also provided this same positive approach and encouragement. Whenever I finished my work in class, I wanted to “help” so they let me work with other students. I was a first born so I was used to helping my sister and brothers learn. This didn’t mean giving them answers but helping them find what they needed to do to learn.

My story is that Arizona State University should give me an award for persevering as life situations meant attending college for 20 years to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Education. During this time, I worked in business in various positions fulltime raising my son. I began volunteering as a reading tutor in an after school program in my son’s elementary school. A fond memory is of a boy telling me he didn’t have to know how to read because he was going to become a truck driver like his dad. We began discussing what types of items might involve reading for that position. Discovering that getting a license and reading about materials that were being carried in the truck for delivery made reading more relevant to him. It also showed me that students need to be supported in not only doing well in reading but in understanding why it is important to their life.

In my next career teaching, I was able to continue to support students in realizing why reading was important to them and how effort in school would help them in their future. I think we all need to make connections as to how and why something will benefit us and meet a specific goal in our lives. Students were helpful in sharing what their struggles were because they were all interested in learning about themselves, their community, and the world around them. We also worked together in solving problems by saying that if learning was not helped by doing “A” then we would try “B” and then “C”. The key is not to give up but to keep trying to meet the challenges. We said, “It’s hard but I’ll figure it out.” That is always rewarding for me as a volunteer. Working with the teachers and the students to support their needs is also a great way for me to continue learning. The students’ confidence and enjoyment as they recognize what works for their personal learning style forms one of the foundations for them becoming responsible, productive citizens. I am very grateful in being able to make this contribution to my community.