RONDA — Ethan Raymond Allen is a familiar face in the halls at East Wilkes Middle School. Students and teachers alike are greeted daily with a smile and a helping hand.
Allen is a full-time volunteer assisting with the students in the classroom, performing small group training in math, tutoring math after school, performing odd jobs as requested, assisting by translating with parents and working as a substitute teacher when needed.
When asked how he ended up at East Middle, Allen said the story begins with the U.S. Navy. He spent 26 years in the Navy, the last 14 in Rota, Spain. While in Spain, he obtained a bachelor’s degree and became semi-fluent in Spanish. Allen continued his education after leaving the Navy by obtaining a master’s degree in education and a teacher’s license from the Commonwealth of Virginia. He then went to work for the United States Department of Education in the Executive Office of the Office of English Language Acquisition.
Allen said, “I arrived in North Carolina in December of 2008 with a deep feeling that God had a plan for me and with the ability to speak Spanish and a degree in education which I had never used. In February 2008, my cousin, Shelly Somers, a science teacher at East Wilkes Middle School, asked me if I would like to help her at school. I started by working a couple of hours one day each week and this soon turned out to be a full time volunteer mission. So, I was finally using my degree in education.”
Several students from both East Wilkes Middle and East Wilkes High have benefited from Allen’s fluency in Spanish. He is an educational guardian for a family of children in the community.
Ramona Hemric, principal at East Middle, has very much respect for Allen. When asked to speak about him, she said, “If you visit East Wilkes Middle School and walk onto the sixth grade hall, you would think we have an extra teacher. Mr. Allen can be found most any day of the week right alongside the sixth grade teachers tutoring, providing enrichment activities, and monitoring students. Mr. Allen is a wonderful volunteer. If Mr. Allen sees a ‘need’ for students or teachers, he spends his time outside of the class to come up with a solution. This summer, he built computer carts on wheels for each of the classrooms so students could quickly store them and recharge them at the end of each day. Since school has begun, he has embarked on a new building project, fourteen custom made storage units painted in school colors for our cafeteria. Now students have a safe place to store their computers and notebooks during lunch time to save travel time in-between exploratory classes and core classes. We are very fortunate to have Mr. Allen as part of our East Wilkes Middle School family.”