Teachers help 73-year-old Chandler man reach goal of reading to great-grandchildren - East Valley Tribune: Chandler

Teachers help 73-year-old Chandler man reach goal of reading to great-grandchildren

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Posted: Sunday, April 1, 2012 7:12 am

From driving trucks to owning a lawn business to working security, Larry Huffman has always found success in life.

The Chandler resident did so through perseverance and determination.

And now, those same attributes are helping Huffman, at age 73, to learn to read.

After he retired nine years ago from security at Schuff Steel, Huffman said he sat around the house for about a month, then told his wife he was going to find a job.

Huffman walked down the street to Pomeroy Elementary School in the Mesa Unified School District. He was hired as a crossing guard and, later, as a playground aide.

A few years passed until school staff member Cindy Venker, who is now retired, offered to teach Huffman to read.

“All my life I was told I was stupid and dumb. Why try something?” he thought at the time. She convinced him otherwise.

Though he had attended school as a child, his “education” was “washing windows and walls.” He’d been abandoned by his parents as a baby and raised by a minister’s wife.

Venker worked with Huffman for a few months before she retired. Then Robyn Moody, a former kindergarten teacher who is now the school’s reading specialist, stepped in about a year ago.

Huffman met his first goal this past Christmas: He read a book to his two great-grandchildren on Christmas Eve.

“That was the best part. That’s what I really wanted to do,” he said.

His reading lessons started just like those for children, Moody said, with the letters and sounds. She uses the 30 minutes she has off for lunch to teach Huffman four days a week.

“He’s very committed. He does everything I ask him to do,” she said.

He’s also a bit of a celebrity on campus now. “Mr. Larry” goes into classrooms and talks about learning to read. Teachers have told him he’s inspired students to perform better.

“I just keep going. I never give up,” Huffman said. “One thing led to another and I said I’ve got to keep going.”

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