Midwest City- School is out for the summer at Willow Brook Elementary, but volunteer classroom aid Ella Patterson is already looking forward to next year.
For the past several years, Patterson has been helping out in Sandra Williams' Kindergarten classroom as a volunteer with the Foster Grandparent program.
"A hand is always needed some place, and I'm just glad to give it", says Patterson.
Patterson says when she retired, she started volunteering at her grandchildren's schools, and it took off from there.
She eventually joined the Foster Grandparent program, a project of Sunbeam Family Services which provides volunteers to schools across the metro.
Patterson was assigned as a volunteer at Willow Brook a couple of years ago.
Williams says Patterson shows up four days a week when school begins, and stays with the children all day helping them with their lessons.
Having an extra set of hands makes the teacher's job much easier.
"From hanging things on the bulletin board to helping in the cafeteria, for whatever you ask, and so it is great", says Williams.
But for Principal Glenna Berry, Patterson provides much more than that.
"This inner light just comes shining out from her at all times, she has a warm smile for everyone", Patterson says.
That is why Berry nominated the retired grandmother turned classroom mentor.
"She finds a student who needs that extra help, is maybe not getting everything they need in their home environment, and she takes extra time with that child", says Berry.
First Fidelity Bank's Adam Shephard was thrilled to honor Patterson with four hundred dollars.
"Glenna, on behalf of First Fidelity Bank, I'd like to thank you for nominating Ella for this Pay It Forward award", Shephard said as he counted out the cash to Berry.
Cash in hand, it was time to make our way down a maze of hallways stacked with desks, and boxes of books piled aside for summer cleaning.
Berry had arranged to surprise Patterson in Ms. Williams classroom where she has spent so much of her time helping kids.
"I'm Marianne Rafferty with Newschannel 4. Your principal here has nominated you for First Fidelity Bank's Pay It Forward for all you do for the kids."
Patterson was pleasantly surprised to find out why she had been summoned to an empty classroom.
Of course, Patterson did want any credit for all the work she does.
"This is what you are supposed to do, and this is our future", Patterson says, "The kids."
Patterson plans to continue helping young students learn for years to come.
"You would think she was an employee because she is", says Berry, "Every day she's right here with the kids."
Patterson says she plans to use the four hundred dollars to buy some things for the students in her classroom, including a new set of blocks to replace damaged ones.