By Robert Lucke
Ted Gran is a fellow who has taken his retirement years and turned them into a joyful symphony of helping students from far away to learn much about Havre and Montana. And all the time he is doing this, he is helping himself, too.
After retiring as the librarian at Havre High School 10 years ago, he floundered for a time and then took his wifes advise and started to help others.
About five years ago, I started at Robins School. Originally, I was in adult education and a volunteer, just really getting people prepared to take their GED, things like that, said Gran.
I had a foreign student one year from Turkey. Next year, it was a young lady from Greece that I helped in the afternoons. She was preparing to enter Northern. Before I knew it, the next year, I was helping people from China and Japan.
Soon, Gran realized that most of his volunteer work was coming from the college.
Instead of having them come to Robins, I set up shop at the Student Union each day Monday through Thursday from one to five, Gran continued. And now I have three from Taiwan, a student from China and Japan, and, occasionally, I see a person from Belize.
There are few boundaries in what international students and Gran work on.
I work with them on all the language arts history, psychology, English, French, Spanish, Sociology; about the only thing I dont tutor in are the sciences and math, Gran continued. Some have studied English as a second language for a few years in their native countries, so they can get by but not good enough for the classes they are taking.
Soon enough, they become anything but international for Gran.
I really dont think of them as international. All right, they are from a different culture, but pretty quickly that fits into the background and you just deal with people who want some help for awhile, Gran said.
And quickly, it becomes much more than just tutoring.
After a while, I have become very close to each of them, and each is special in their own way, and we become good friends over the course of time. I work with them three to four years, so I know them well and we do a certain amount of socializing. They have all become guests in our home, Gran said.
It all started when Gran was confused about what to do in his retirement years.
When I retired from public school teaching, I didnt know what I wanted to do. I drifted and had no set goals, Gran said.
After Grans wife sent him to volunteer at Robins, and he got involved with MSU-Northern international students, he made it possible for some students to stay in Havre who would not be able to without his help.
Mavis Filler, administrative assistant for Student Affairs at the college, sees results daily from Grans efforts.
Ted even walks the students around town and points out all sorts of things to help them with their English skills, Filler said. Many of those students have told me if Gran wasnt here, they wouldnt be here either. From all of them, I hear again and again that he is just incredible!
Grans volunteer load sometimes is massive, but he makes time for all.
We now have 15 international students from all parts of the world, Filler continued. He is tutoring seven or eight of them and every one of them that he comes in contact with, he gets them over the hump. I just cannot believe it.
Gran has learned that even though he is a volunteer, his non-monetary pay is great.
Certainly, my work is all volunteer. My pay is not in dollars and cents, Gran confessed. We all share many things. I give to them. They give to me and, in some ways, I get more than they do. The friendships we make are valuable to me. They might be students at first, but very quickly they become friends.
There is no thought of stopping this volunteer work that Gran loves so much.
When do the lessons end? I dont know. I hope to keep this up as long as possible and sometimes I dont know where they all come from, but they just keep coming. Luckily for me, the numbers work out, Gran said.
And the numbers work out for many grateful MSU-Northern students, as well.