Nyaisha Colpetro is laser-focused on what she wants to be when she grows up. So, the 10-year-old is already trying a teaching career on for size.
And she’s being encouraged in her pursuit by a growing new fan base.
It’s a quiet one, because her laboratory of learning and teaching takes place inside the Akron-Summit County Public Library, Highland Square branch.
Nyaisha — a fifth-grader at the nearby Portage Path Community Learning Center and a library regular — approached officials there and asked if she could start a book club for children ages 3 to 9.
“This seems to be a self-directed service project of hers,” youth services librarian Kathleen Mockensturm acknowledged. “We, of course, said, ‘Sure!’
“Her program is her reading a picture book to children, and then she has the kids color pictures.”
Even though days went by at first with no one attending, an undeterred Nyaisha kept coming, “printing out coloring sheets, selecting books and setting up her meeting room and waiting.”
So Mockensturm and others, in an effort to get the young girl the audience they believed she so richly deserved, campaigned to recruit children for the class: “If anyone has that time period open and wants to make a young girl smile, please come by the library and bring your child to her story time,” the message read. “I have no idea how the program will go, but you can’t help but love and admire this child’s initiative to do something constructive with her time and for her community.”
Keeping it simple
An extremely poised Nyaisha placed carpet squares on the floor on a recent afternoon and took her place — picture book in hand — in front of a class of five toddlers and a 6-year-old along with their mothers.
It was a quick read, as Nyaisha seemed mindful of their short attention span. Then she had them color pictures related to the story.
Six-year-old Mary Manahan, a first-grader at Resnik Community Learning Center elementary school and an artist at heart, seemed to enjoy the coloring exercise more. Her mother, Emily O’Brien, applauded Nyaisha: “I think what she’s doing is neat! I just wanted to come to support her. She does a really good job in trying to incorporate the craft with the story.”
An equally complimentary Christie Trenor brought her 4-year-old son Christian and 2-year-old daughter Adeline to support Nyaisha as well: “I had heard about her story time!”
Christian was busy coloring, seemingly happy to have an outlet where he was allowed to eat his Angry Birds crackers at the same time. Brain food, he would probably call it.
Likewise, 3-year-old twins Vivienne and Keaton Murray — accompanied by their mother, Elissa, a Beacon Journal copy editor who brought Nyaisha to our attention — were much more interested in coloring than the spoken word. Well, that wasn’t altogether true of a very animated Keaton, who seemed interested in lecturing to me about “vampires.”
Vivienne, dressed in pink, had a firm grasp on the pink crayon and her brother preferred green as they made favorable marks on their lesson sheet.
Nyaisha hung up the finished artwork for all to admire. What child doesn’t want to see his or her work up in lights, as it were?
Nyaisha puts a lot of thought into the selection process.
“I pick out the book I want to use and put it on hold,” she said. “Then I do a Google search for art I want to use with it.”
Referencing one of her favorite picture books, Friends by Rob Lewis, Nyaisha spoke eloquently about it: “It has a good message, teaching little kids how to learn to be friends with others. That’s very important!”
Before she begins that career teaching kindergarten, Nyaisha has more immediate goals, apart from her book club. She plans to play soccer and run track when she moves on to middle school next year.
And now Nyaisha has rolled out yet another program at the library, the Teaching Club, which meets from 4 to 4:40 p.m. Monday through Thursday. “This is for children ages 4 to 9 years old,” she said.
“No, because I teach reading and math and most 3-year-olds don’t know how to add,” she said matter-of-factly. “If they’re good at the end, I let them play games like Simon Says.”
Since she spends so much time after school at the library, I wanted to know when she had time to do her own homework. “I do it after this or when I get home,” she replied.
Her proud mother, Cheria Ross, confirmed it, adding that Nyaisha “is always playing school with her little sister,” 3-year-old Destany.
Asked why she thinks she would not like to teach fifth grade, Nyaisha had a quick answer: “Because they’re not always respectful of the teacher and they don’t always listen.”
Mockensturm has high hopes for Nyaisha’s book and teaching clubs. “I think it’s really great what she’s doing. Any effort to spread literacy and working with kids is always a good thing. I love her initiative!”
“I always clean up after myself and the children,” Nyaisha said. “I put the [carpet] mats away and put away all the papers and the other stuff.”
High marks for that, too.
Like the old saying: A man, or in this case girl, is never so tall as when he or she stoops to help a child.
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or email@example.com