Penny Gerds is one of the hardest working mentors in the Power Read program. She has been a reading mentor with Everybody Wins! Iowa since 2018. Over her almost 2 years with the program, Penny has read at Walnut Street School, Lovejoy, Howe, CFUM, Riverwoods and our summer program at Greenwood. She said she started mentoring because, “I chose to mentor because since I was tiny, books have been a magic key to wonderful worlds.” She heard an ad on Iowa Public Radio about us and she thought, “I would love to do that, to share my enthusiasm for reading with kids.”
Outside of mentoring Penny’s interests are going to the symphony, botanical gardens and quilting. She is also an avid reader and actively reads to learn. She also spends time with her daughter’s who live in Des Moines.
The thing that makes her come back year after year to our program is, “memories of many a happy lunch hour with students, sharing their lives and their reading for a brief time every week.” She tells people who are interested that, “reading with the students is the most fun I have all week. Having had only daughters, I especially enjoy reading with boys; they are a new adventure to me.”
Lisa Nielsen at Walnut Street says, “having Penny as a mentor at Walnut Street School this year has been a treat. I love that she always arrives to the Power Read program with a smile on her face and is eager to read with her student, Khylinn. Her cheerful disposition not only makes her Khylinn’s favorite mentor but a favorite of her fellow mentors as well.”
Marty Katz who is Penny’s site-coordinator at Riverwoods, Lovejoy and Howe says, “Penny puts her heart and soul into her students. She selects challenging books and does an outstanding job of mentoring and cultivating their love of reading. Penny is always positive and compassionate. She takes her role seriously but not herself!
Amber Juffer was Penny’s site-coordinator at the summer program at Greenwood. She observed, “Penny and her student were reading Captain Underpants all summer and I think she actually enjoyed it!” She also shared that “Penny is a gift to have as a mentor.”
Penny shares this advice with current or future mentors, “be sensitive to the children with whom we read; we truly have little idea of the reality of their daily lives, and perhaps our time with them is an oasis in a rough world. But if we listen and observe, and faithfully come to read with them, they come to regard the books as the adventure and us simply as friends along for the journey.”
Everybody Wins! Iowa thanks Penny for her dedication, passion and enthusiasm for the program.