Erickson Elementary Students Find a Friend amid the Bookshelves

Article excerpt

Byline: Edman, Hart & Nickerson

Jack Rottman has earned his summer vacation.

Rottman, Bloomingdale District 13's most prolific volunteer, spent more than 150 hours this past year at Erickson Elementary School's media center. He shelved books, helped with class projects and befriended the building's 686 students.

As he helped a kindergarten class check out various titles in May, Rottman asked each child to show a driver's license. The kids dissolved into giggles, believing he's the best thing to happen to libraries since Dr. Seuss.

Rottman - if you haven't guessed by now - is a different kind of volunteer. The Bloomingdale resident works at Erickson for the sheer joy of it.

Not one of his eight children attended District 13, and none of his 14 school-age grandchildren are enrolled there, either. His tie to the school system is an annual tax bill.

Rottman began volunteering at Erickson three years ago to escape boredom. When he retired from the carpet business, he worried about the impending monotony.

"I had some anxieties about keeping busy," he said.

Not anymore. Rottman - who cheerfully declines to give his age - works in the media center Tuesday and Thursday mornings. In between administrative duties, he chats with the children and entertains them with jokes.

He knows most of the students' names, and they all know his. They even ask their teachers to visit the library on day he volunteers.

Rottman greets the children warmly and gives them high-fives as they leave. In between time he helps them with research projects, relearning the basics of latitude, longitude and other long-forgotten trivia.

"I don't know who learns more," he said, "me or the children."

Our money is on the kids.

Bus rodeo

Remember that classic episode of "The Brady Bunch" in which Greg and Marcia squared off in a driver's ed battle of the sexes? They inched Dad's convertible through a maze of cones to prove who was the safer driver.

School bus drivers from all over Illinois will be doing the same thing starting Thursday, but they'll be doing it in buses at the annual state bus rodeo.

There are turning events, backing events, driving-in-a-straight-line events.

"It's like a bus drivers' track meet," said Alfred Mayer, a driver for Naperville Unit District 203.

Mayer and co-worker Marilyn Bloome will represent the district as well as the Fox Valley region at the state tournament. It's the fifth year Naperville drivers have qualified for the state competition.

"We're clearly the champions of the bus rodeo," Mayer said.

Parents should feel confident about putting their children on a rodeo champ's bus. The events and the judging are much more rigorous than the ordinary suburban bus route, Mayer said.

Take driving in a straight line sounds like a snap. But for the bus rodeo, lanes are narrowed to give just 2 inches of clearance on either side of the tires, Mayer said. If a bus gets too close, it will knock a tennis ball off the top of a cone and points are lost.

Drivers are graded on how well they follow the step-by-step procedures for crossing railroad tracks, picking up students and double-checking that their buses are safe to drive.

The competition and the judging are tougher at the state level, Mayer said. It's a quiet, professional gathering where drivers' clothing and appearance are evaluated for safety.

Drivers are eliminated from competition unceremoniously, he said. …