Soldiers become reading role models at P.S. 200

There is more to David Wint than simply being an educator. The first and second grade special education teacher at P.S. 200, at 1940 Benson Avenue, also serves as a specialist in the U.S. Army Reserves.

On Monday morning, March 12, Wint was joined at his school by four other uniformed servicemembers from the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Hamilton – First Sergeant Darryl Brown, Specialist Samantha Fidilio, Captain Shevon Saide and Sergeant Josephine Ventura – along with Commander Erin McAvoy from the U.S. Navy, with the goal of promoting reading.

“I think literacy is very important,” Wint said, adding. “We’re doing nice things here at P.S. 200.”

Wint and the other soldiers addressed a student assembly before they each headed to a different first grade class. Once there, they read to the students from a book the servicemembers had picked out themselves.

“I think it’s important to let them know we’re human beings and we love children,” said Saide, who returned home from a 14-month tour in Afghanistan a year ago. “Anything we can do to help them feel more comfortable with us, we want to do.”

McAvoy, who was previously stationed at the Pentagon, agrees that the day offered an opportunity to show the first graders a different kind of soldier from the one typically portrayed in video games or movies.

“I think it takes the element of fear out of the military,” she said. “There are many sides to all of us. Adults know that, but kids sometimes need an example, like ‘I met a soldier and he was nice.’”

She hopes that the first graders at P.S. 200 will take the lesson to heart.

“Soldiers are people,” McAvoy said. “And we’re not scary, awful people. We’re just regular people.”

Yet first grader Paul Buete claims he has never feared the military.

“They’ve never been scary to me, because they fight for us,” said the seven-year-old Buete. “Sometimes they never [make it] home.”

Buete says he enjoyed the soldiers coming to read to his class.

According to reading intervention teacher Anne Capua, the idea of having the soldiers endorse reading came from Brown, whose two children attend first grade and pre-K at P.S. 200.

“Sergeant Brown had said [the soldiers] wanted to come and promote literacy with some of the children in our schools,” Capua said.

Brown says he relishes any opportunity to pay the community back for their support.

“A lot of times we get thanked for what we do, but we’re not good enough at thanking the community for allowing us to serve,” he said.

According to Principal Javier Muniz, the faculty jumped at the opportunity for an alternate way to reach their students.

“As the adage says, ‘it takes a village,’” Muniz said. “So we try to reach out to as many partners as possible to make sure our students succeed.”

In the wake of the event’s success, Capua says she is working to make it a monthly occurrence at the school. Although no date has yet been set, planning is underway for soldiers to visit P.S. 200 in April, this time to read to the second graders. No matter what the grade though, Capua feels it is impossible to overstate the significance of these visits for the students.

“Just to see these heroic figures holding a book, will foster a lifelong love of reading,” she said.

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