Solving the puzzles of life: Former student honored for two decades of volunteering
COLUMBUS, Ohio —
Once a week for the past 20 years, Andy Reichley has puzzled over a puzzle with the second graders at St. Catharine School in Bexley.
"Oh, it's a great way of giving," said Reichley. "I have a lot of talents to give."
Reichley and teacher Mary Underwood pick a puzzle based on something 7 and 8-year-olds would be interested in. That puzzle then becomes part of a several-month lesson plan.
"This year we did candy," said Reichley. "See they were interested in it," he joked.
Reichley does his part, helping the kids complete the puzzle. Mrs. Underwood does hers.
"So we studied Milton Hershey. And we studied things about chocolate. And we studied things about candy, and that that kind of got our theme going," said Underwood.
Andy and Mary are tag-team duo years in the making.
"I come in and help Mary and we're really good friends. She taught me and now I'm teaching her," said Reichley.
That's right. Andy was in Mrs. Underwood's second grade class in 1981, when her last name was Plank. She's watched him grow into a good man, with character. He's someone the kids love. And love to be around. He's also someone who has epilepsy but is able to push past it every day.
"I think he's humble, and kind, giving, generous, and they see that with the projects that he does. And just what he does in his dealings in working with them. And he not only teaches them that, he teaches me that," said Underwood.
The kids spend time with Andy in small groups. About ten minutes at a time. They talk puzzles. And they talk puzzles of life.
"I feel in a sense I'm a teacher too. Like in a mentor role. Helping the kids and doing things," said Reichley.
And in that role, the students relax.
"It's like a break (from) learning," said one student. "It gets you focused so when you go back in the room then you're more focused on what you're doing," said another student.
St. Catharine recently recognized Andy for all he's done by honoring him for his dedication. His dad, who he lives with, was able to be there as Andy accepted their thanks, and a gift card for him to use to buy more puzzles.
Andy's spent 20 years in the hallway so far. But he expects to spend at least 20 years more.
"I always feel good coming here and enjoy it and the people know who I am and I always leave with a positive attitude and know that I'm helping people out," he said.
Reichley also produces a year-end newspaper for the class about what they learned. Every student also gets their own bio written by Andy himself. That gives you an idea of just how well he gets to know those students.