Farmington Schools honors 2019 Senior Extraordinaire Awardee

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published November 12, 2019

 Martha Maitlen, 78, of Farmington Hills, accepts the 2019 Farmington Public Schools Senior Extraordinaire Award from Superintendent Robert Hererra at the Senior Adult Breakfast Oct. 22.

Martha Maitlen, 78, of Farmington Hills, accepts the 2019 Farmington Public Schools Senior Extraordinaire Award from Superintendent Robert Hererra at the Senior Adult Breakfast Oct. 22.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FARMINGTON — Farmington Public Schools have announced the 2019 Senior Extraordinaire Awardee.

Martha Maitlen, 78, of Farmington Hills, was recognized and honored as this year’s Senior Extraordinaire awardee at the district’s annual senior adult breakfast Oct. 22 for her dedication to helping at the elementary schools through the Senior Adults Giving to Education (SAGE) program for the last 11 years.

Before Maitlen retired, she worked at Oakland Community College. She had a son go through Farmington Public Schools, graduating from North Farmington High School.

Maitlen currently volunteers with fourth grade Hillside Elementary School Teacher Suzanne Burzynski. She’s been volunteering in Burzynski’s classroom twice a week for the past seven years. Maitlen volunteered at Gill Elementary School for four years prior to that. Burzynski said Maitlen is “part of the crew.”

“Martha was chosen because she’s been helping (Burzynski) in the classroom for many years, and it’s just an example of what seniors can do to give back to our schools. Our schools benefit so much from having them in the classroom,” said School and Community Relations Director Diane Bauman.

SAGE is a partnership program with the district, set up through the city of Farmington Hills Adults 50 & Better Division, which gives seniors the opportunity to volunteer at the schools.

“It’s not just doing the copying,” Bauman said. “It’s actually working with the students and helping them grow, and there’s nothing better than that. They’re teaching them, and I bet the students teach them some things, too.”

Maitlen said that’s exactly the case.

“The kids keep me active. Instead of just sitting at home being a couch potato, (and) that’s not for me — I like to keep active and be with the kids. It’s enjoyable. We have a lot of fun reading books. They show me pictures of the books they’re reading. It just works back and forth.”

Burzynski further acknowledged that Maitlen is a “jack-of-all-trades” when it comes to the work she does in the classroom.

“It’s probably more what doesn’t she do,” Burzynski said. “She’s done math facts. She’s done side-by-side reading. She’s even helped with peer editing, where the kids can bounce ideas off her. She’s been my eyes and ears when my back is to some individuals. She helps keep that focus, and she’s event helped with our field trips. … It’s been a little bit of everything.”

When Burzynski told Maitlen she was chosen a week prior to the breakfast, where she was presented her award, Maitlen said she cried. At the award ceremony, she said she was still in shock.

Maitlen started volunteering through SAGE because she wanted to keep busy as a retiree and have a chance to be around kids, since grandchildren didn’t work out the way she had hoped.

“I thought when I retired, I’d be a grandma, but it didn’t work out that way, so I wanted to do something to be around kids,” she said. “They’re kind of our kids, as we say, and it’s just enjoyable being around them.”

Burzynski said her students are always filled with joy when they hear “Miss Martha” is coming to class. It also provides some free therapy, she added.

“We joke, but it’s also good therapy. It allows you to escape what’s going on around you, whether it be health, family or whatnot,” Burzynski said. “It’s an escape from that because you can come down to the kids’ level where there’s such an innocence.”

Maitlen encourages other seniors to get involved within the district because it’s been a positive experience. She said it ties the two groups — seniors and school-aged kids — together, which “we need more of now.”

Bauman said there are currently still six openings through SAGE for seniors to volunteer and get involved, though she’d love to have “a ton more” seniors join the district.

“It’s so beneficial for the teacher to have that extra person in the classroom,” she said. “We would find places for them. Every teacher would want one.”

For more information on the SAGE program, and other senior volunteer opportunities with the school district, call Diane Bauman at (248) 489-3349.

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