Farmington Hills senior Nancy Leflar is honored for her work with local students

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Farmington Press | Published December 5, 2012

 Nancy Leflar, left, and Kenbrook teacher Melissa McDermid stand in a sea of smiling third-graders Nov. 28. Leflar volunteers in the classroom on Wednesday afternoons.

Nancy Leflar, left, and Kenbrook teacher Melissa McDermid stand in a sea of smiling third-graders Nov. 28. Leflar volunteers in the classroom on Wednesday afternoons.

Photo by Deb Jacques

FARMINGTON HILLS — At 75 years old, Nancy Leflar has had the chance to meet plenty of interesting people in her day. But if you ask her, the most fascinating folks she’s come across are still in elementary school.

“There’s no one finer than an 8-year-old or a 9-year-old, in my opinion. Their creativity and imagination is astonishing,” she said.

Leflar, who has lived with her husband in Farmington Hills for 27 years, was honored recently by Farmington Public Schools for her efforts as a volunteer aid at Kenbrook Elementary School. On Oct. 25, she received the district’s 2012 Senior Extraordinaire award at the 17th annual Senior Adult Forum Breakfast, held at the Costick Center. Leflar has been volunteering with the Senior Adults Giving to Education program for more than eight years.

She was nominated for the honor by third-grade teacher Melissa McDermid, who happily suggested Leflar receive the award for many years of helping students with everything from math equations and spelling troubles to lessons in friendship and kindness.

“Nancy is such a kind, wonderful, caring adult and it really shows to the kids,” said McDermid. “It’s just an additional person in their life who thinks about them. When she comes in every week, she makes connections with them.”

Leflar said she volunteered for the SAGE program because of her love for children. She previously volunteered at the Detroit Zoo and also worked to earn her provisional teaching certificate. With four grown children of her own and nine grandkids, ranging in age from five to 23 years old, she said part of the reason she volunteers at the school is because it pains her to see her own family grow out of childhood.

“I just adore children. I always have. They are interesting people, especially that age group. Sometimes they’re terribly, terribly grown-up about things. But at other times, they’re just children.”

Each Wednesday afternoon, Leflar pays a visit to Kenbrook just after the students come back from recess. As McDermid returns to the day’s lessons, Leflar stands by quietly and looks for students in need of help.

“Sometimes we’re on computers, sometimes it’s science, and sometimes I just listen to them read,” she said. “I’m there to let them know they’re on the right path, and I think probably to help minimize frustration. It’s the joy of my life to go there.”

According to McDermid, Leflar’s value in Room 20 goes well past simple academic or behavioral assistance. Leflar has been known to drop off snacks for students who might not have them, and when McDermid participated in a teacher exchange program during the 2009-10 school year, Leflar could be counted on to help the British exchange teacher feel more comfortable in her new American classroom.

“It’s wonderful having Nancy in the room. In the ratio of one to 23 kids, it’s just nice to have another adult in the space that can touch base with someone if they need a little extra TLC,” said McDermid. “Plus, I love knowing someone in our community is connecting back to our local schools.”

Leflar said she was nervous to accept her award in front of a crowd of people at the annual breakfast, which gives local seniors the opportunity to speak with district representatives about current issues in education, as well as see exhibitions and performances by student artists and musicians.

“Melissa called and said, ‘I have good news and bad news,’ and I was just stunned,” said Leflar about learning of her award. “She knows how I feel about being singled out. Happily, I was able to keep my remarks short.”

Now that she’s stepped out of the spotlight, she says she’s touched that she was recognized simply for doing something she loves.

“I’ll keep doing it until I fall over or do something that annoys Melissa,” Leflar said with a laugh. “She’s just such a remarkable young woman. I learn a lot from her, and I think my grandchildren gain a lot from her without knowing it. She gives kids dignity.”