What's Her Secret?: Bluffton mom volunteers at school to show value of education

abredeson@islandpacket.comAugust 13, 2012 

Michel Claudio swings on her front porch with her children Sophia, 7, and Michael, 9, at her home in Bluffton.


  • Name: Michel Claudio

    Town: Bluffton

    Strength: Volunteering at school


Features writer Amy Bredeson writes about Lowcountry moms who have advice to share. Email her at abredeson@islandpacket.com.

As moms, we know the importance of education. Without it, our children would have bleak futures.

Most of us wish we could help out in the schools, but our busy schedules keep us from actually doing it.

Michel Claudio works full-time as a tax preparer at Professional Tax Savers in Bluffton. She and her husband, Tony, have two children -- ages 7 and 9. She's just as busy as the next mom. But she doesn't let that keep her from doing what she knows is important.

Claudio is chairwoman of the School Improvement Council at Red Cedar Elementary School. She also volunteers her time helping teachers at the school whenever possible.

Question. How did you get involved in the School Improvement Council?

Answer. When my son was in kindergarten, we were at Okatie. Red Cedar wasn't open yet. And they were looking for people to join the SIC and PTO. And you know, (he was) my first child, and I wanted to get involved. I went to PTO meetings, and I went to SIC meetings. Usually you get involved in your kids' school because you want to know what's going on with your kids. And that's definitely how it started. And at first you hear about things that are going on with the fifth-graders, or the third-graders have this project, and you don't really care because it doesn't have anything to do with you. And as it goes along, you realize how much the stuff that doesn't affect your child still affects your child. Having really great programs for them to look forward to, or really great students for them to look up to, it just makes such a difference in everybody's education. And so I started to get more involved with the SIC, mostly because it was so poorly attended.

Q. What else have you done in the school?

A. I'll volunteer with some of the teachers. A fantastic teacher -- she puts in so many hours, coming up with new ways to help a certain child, wracking her brain to get through to this one kid. I would go in in the morning and just help her file once or twice a week. And it sounds so terribly boring, but it needed to be done. And if she could maybe spend those 20 minutes getting ready for the day instead of putting papers away, I'm happy to do it.

Q. Why is it important to you to help out at the school?

A. Well, you know, I always tell the kids that their education comes first; school comes first. Get home from school, get your homework done and then we can go do whatever else we want to get done. But school has to come first. And I have to say it less when I show it more. ... I could be home. I could probably have a fancier hairdo or get the laundry done, maybe once or twice clean the house. But I say that school's important so I have to make sure it's important to me.

Q. And how do you make time to go to meetings and volunteer on top of working and taking care of two kids?

A. My mom used to say, "If it's important, it's important enough to do first." You get up a half an hour early and get some other things done so you can get to school, do 15 to 20 minutes before school. ... You make time. It sounds so trite, but you do. ... You don't have to spend a lot of time to make a difference. You pop in and help a teacher file. Or you pop in after school and help out with a tutoring session. Or once a month show up to an SIC meeting or a PTO meeting.

Q. Do you just show up and ask how you can volunteer?

A. I have done that because there's always something to do. It might be even something just in the office. But you can email your child's teacher. ... They'll take anything, anything they can get. Just like a mom, you know? If somebody would come in and watch the kids for 10 minutes while you go run to the mailbox, you'll take it.

Q. What's something you're not so great at?

A. Oh, gosh. I try and be organized, but every year I try a different system to do it with because I figure if I only find the perfect system, I will be so organized. ... If I file the papers a different way or use this new technology, it's going to do it for me. It doesn't always happen. It's a bit of a paper mess around here, but somehow it all gets done.

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