BATAVIA – When Batavia parent Dan Pepin gets home from work, his two young children already have finished their homework.
“They want to play,” Pepin said.
To understand more about his children’s education, Pepin recently signed up to be a volunteer with Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), a national program that encourages fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers and uncles to get more involved in children’s education.
Watch D.O.G.S., which began in 1998 in a school in Springdale, Ark., is in more than 3,000 schools in 46 states, according to the group’s website. It is a program of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit educational organization that provides research-based training and resources.
Pepin signed up to volunteer at Hoover-Wood Elementary School on Halloween. He spent part of the day greeting students dressed in costume, as well as watching his 6-year-old son, Tyler, taking a quiz on a computer in his first-grade class. His daughter, Danielle, 5, attends kindergarten at Hoover-Wood.
“I thought it would give me time to interact with my children, to see what they are learning, and interact with the other children,” Pepin said. “All the technology that is being used in the classroom these days was an eye-opener.”
Pepin admitted he is not able to spend as much time at their school as his wife, Irma, who is a stay-at-home mom. Approximately 40 volunteers have signed up for the program since it started this spring at Hoover-Wood.
The success of the program has impressed Hoover-Wood Principal Lew Girmscheid.
“I have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of dads who come in,” Girmscheid said.
He sees the program providing a number of benefits.
“For the dads, they get to know their child’s day, and see details of their day,” Girmscheid said. “It’s not just good for their own child, it’s also good for other children to see positive role models.”
Batavia School District Superintendent Lisa Hichens agreed. She has seen the program in action.
“It is a great way to get parents involved, in a nontraditional way,” Hichens said.
Hoover-Wood is the first school in Batavia School District 101 to implement the program. Rotolo Middle School is set to implement the program starting Monday.
Rotolo Middle School Principal Steve Maciejewski said the program initially will be implemented in the sixth grade, and then will be expanded. Those who want to learn about the program are urged to attend an informational night pizza party at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the school’s multipurpose room, 1501 S. Raddant Road, Batavia.
Other school districts are seeing success with the program. This is the second year the Watch D.O.G.S. program has been in place at Kaneland Blackberry Creek Elementary School.
“It’s been a very successful program,” Blackberry Creek Principal Martne McCoy said. “We can average two volunteers a day. They get a better understanding of what the students are learning these days.”
Information about the Watch D.O.G.S. program can be found at www.fathers.com.