Helping Others

Exposures: I Care: Volunteer tutor uses math to lift children’s spirits

At the Shriners Hospital School, math tutor Polly Willard shows Valeria Garcia a little trick to multiplying by 9’s and an understanding smile comes over her burn-scarred face.

The 11-year-old patient from Mexico is able to continue her education during her hospital stay with help from volunteers like Willard, 73, who support teaching staff at the K-12 bilingual school that is part of the Sacramento Unified School District.

Children staying at the hospital longer than ten days, or who return daily for rehabilitation therapies, attend school as soon as they are medically able.

With everything unfamiliar from the beds they sleep in to the foods they eat, attending school can add some comfort and normalcy to the childrens’ lives, says school program coordinator, Margaret Kugler.

As a math and chemistry teacher for 43 years, Willard sees math as a universal language. “It blesses me to know that I have communicated in such a way that they get the understanding,” said Willard. “All of the sudden you just know that the lights turned on.”

To suggest a community volunteer for the I Care column, contact Lezlie Sterling at

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