Kids at Riverview can't imagine school without 'Grandpa Graeme'

Graeme McDonald, aka, "Grandpa Graeme,' helps a student at Riverview Elementary School in Vancouver learn to read. (KATU Photo)

Just about everyone has a favorite teacher -- someone they talk about years after they've finished school.

That's why we’ve launched the series “Leaders in Learning” to recognize them.

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Teachers and students at Riverview Elementary School call Graeme McDonald a treasure.

Until a few years ago, “Grandpa Graeme” (pronounced Graham) was just the older man who walked through the neighborhood, smiling and waving at kids as they made their way to and from school.

It wasn’t until a strike that a couple of teachers at the school started talking with him.

“He kept walking by, so we just started talking, and (he) started telling me that his wife died 10 years ago and how sad he was. How he had a stroke, and how he’s walking to just keep his mind busy,” said teacher Kailyn Davies.

The teachers had an idea. Why not bring their neighborhood grandpa into the classroom?

At first, he questioned what he could do because of his stroke, but the teachers suggested reading to the kids.

So now, Grandpa Graeme comes in four days a week for two hours, but instead of reading to kids, the kids read to him, and he helps them with the words. The kids also help him remember names.

“I’ve had three strokes. I have to work hard at it,” Grandpa Graeme said.

He says the students have stolen his heart and his time at Riverview has given him a real purpose in his retirement.

“It livens me up, and I gotta think all the time. I’m not sitting around feeling sorry for myself,” he said.

The kids can’t imagine school without this Leader in Learning.

Do you know a teacher, coach, or mentor who's doing great things for local students? Send us an email at and tell us their story!

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