Joan Watson said good bye to her students in December after 28 years of teaching.
Her classroom was not filled with young children, it was filled with senior adults all over the age of 55 who are “young at heart.”
Watson was the in-service instructor for Appalachian Senior Programs where she taught the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Volunteers. Watson taught school at West Jefferson Elementary for several years before she decided to be a stay at home mom with her two boys.
After her children were grown and with families of their own, Watson realized she needed another outlet for all her energy. That is when she heard about Appalachian Senior Programs, which then was known as New River Senior Services.
In 1989, Watson became the in-service instructor for the Foster Grandparent Program (then under the direction of Wanda Brooks), a program that hires senior citizen volunteers and places them in the schools, head start Centers and developmental delayed daycare centers to work with special needs children in the five county service area of Ashe, Alleghany, Avery, Watauga and Wilkes counties.
In 1990, Watson also became the instructor for the Senior Companion Program, the sister program to the Foster Grandparent Program.
Senior companions are placed in homes and work with other seniors who need extra help with their day-to-day living tasks. In-service classes are specifically designed to increase the seniors’ awareness of areas within their lives that perhaps have never been addressed or have not thought of for years.
The seniors are taught how to re-enter the work force, about professionalism, exercises in team building, effective communication skills and more. Through the years Watson taught her senior students on a variety of subjects.
In December, Watson was honored for her 28 years of service at a luncheon held at the Stone Center in North Wilkesboro. All of the Foster Grandparent volunteers in attendance, and there were surprise visits from Watson’s sister Margaret Jenkins and her nephew Dr. Alvin Jenkins DDS.
“Joan will be deeply missed, but promises she will drop in and visit her students from time to time,” said Tammy Taylor, director of the Appalachian Foster Grandparent Program.