To Irma Kelley, reading with elementary students is all about adventure, imagination and pictures. But, as a retired teacher, she can't help herself every now and then, and tries to sneak a phonics lesson in. But Orono Schumann Elementary students are pretty wise - even at their young age. One handsome young lad, in the politest of tones, once asked Kelley during a visit, "Are we done with this yet?"

Make no mistake, however, about how beloved Kelley and her husband, Bruce, are in Orono Schools. The Long Lake couple was honored as the 2012 recipients of the Orono Education Association Friend of Education Award. The award was presented during the Orono Schools' annual recognition breakfast June 8.

The couple, with the help of the Orono Lions, created the R.E.D. (Read Every Day) Lions Challenge during February, which is I Love to Read Month. This year marked the 11th year of the program. Each first-grader who reads for 20 minutes every day during the month earns a $25 gift card to The Bookcase in Wayzata. The program has been so successful here that other Lions clubs throughout the nation have replicated it.

The Kelleys also organized Orono Reads for second-grade students who need extra support in reading. They found adult volunteers to visit once a week to read with one or two students. In addition, Bruce comes in once a week to work with a small challenge math group.

You don't have to enter the school to see evidence of their volunteer efforts. Irma planted an A-Z hosta garden in front of Orono Schumann Elementary. Just prior to its major renovation, she took out all the plants and then replanted them once the renovation was complete.

The Friend of Education Award is presented to an individual or organization that has dedicated time and talents to the district's schools and its students. It was first presented in 1988. An Orono Education Association member must initiate or endorse a nomination. The OEA Executive Board reviews nominations and decides who should receive the honor.

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