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ONFE Volunteers In Education: Neil Lillico

Volunteer in Education Neil Lilico

Our third 2023 volunteer spotlight features Neil Lillico! Read on to learn more about Neil and why he decided to volunteer in our Volunteers in Education program.

Pam Kendall, Kindergarten teacher at W.O. Mitchell PS, wrote: 

“Neil Lillico is a committed volunteer who has been reading to Kindergarten students at W.O.M. for many years now (long before I came to the school).

Neil comes to my class twice a week to read with students. He brings wonderful books along with him and easily and capably interacts with students; allowing them to choose books they are interested in, answering their questions and encouraging those who are shy to join the group. Students are always excited to see him and often run to greet him when he arrives. Neil clearly appreciates the importance of being read to in the early years and helps and supports our team to nurture a love of books and reading in our students.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I was born in Jacksonville, Florida. My Mom and I moved to Barrie, Ontario to live with my maternal grandparents after my father passed away in 1954. My grandfather retired from the Canadian Army in 1958 and we moved to Ottawa as my grandfather obtained employment with the Federal Public Service. I’ve lived in Ottawa since then and attended numerous public schools in Ottawa – Woodroffe Ave., D. Roy Kennedy, Bayview, Hopewell, Ridgemont and Nepean.

I enjoy reading, history and conducting genealogical research on my Family Tree. I currently have 6,107 relatives in my Family Tree. My grandchildren and daughter-in-law live in Utah and have been there since my son moved from Ottawa, to Whitehorse in 2002 and then to Provo, Utah in 2008. My son passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, from a pulmonary embolism in November 2018.

What made you decide to volunteer with VIE?

After I retired in 2012, I was looking for a volunteer position. I had considered reading to seniors, when one of my friends from high school posted on her Facebook page that she was going to volunteer with ONFE. I contacted her and we both attended the same training course and I subsequently started reading to Kindergarten students at W.O. Mitchell School in 2017.

Who was your favourite teacher and why?

Miss Whitworth, who was my Grade Four teacher at Bayview Public School. Looking back, I think it was her first year teaching, so she was maybe only 10 years older than her students. She was a far different teacher than I had in the past – young, very kind, patient and someone to whom I could relate.

What is your personal philosophy on life?

I try to live by following the Golden Rule – treating others as you would like to be treated yourself; fairly, honestly and kindly with consideration, courtesy, dependability and compassion.

If you could go back to a particular grade level or childhood age, which would it be and why?

I always enjoyed History and English classes. I had a very interesting history teacher in Grade 11 who stimulated my interest in history. I’ve always been an avid reader, so English classes were something else I enjoyed. While I was never particularly good at mathematics, I did enjoy Grade 10 geometry and found it was something useful that I actually used later in life – unlike Functions and Calculus, which still baffle me to this very day.

What is your favourite hidden gem in Ottawa?

The numerous museums and research facilities that are available in Ottawa. The most important would be the National Library and Archives which provide excellent opportunities for both in-person and on-line research.

Tell us about a lesson you learned this year. What did it teach you about yourself?

Over the years, I’ve learned that I enjoy engaging with the younger generation by encouraging them to read and enjoy books. However, the most important thing I’ve learned appears at the end of the next paragraph.

I was reading a book about Shrek to a group of youngsters. Shrek was concerned that he was an ugly ogre married to the beautiful princess Fiona. He thought she deserved to be married to a handsome prince. Shrek went off, obtained and drank a “magic potion”, and was transformed into a handsome prince. As I finished the sentence, I turned to the Kindergarten student sitting next to me and said “I guess that is what happened to me. I drank the magic potion and turned into a handsome prince.” Without batting an eye, she responded “You’re not handsome!”

If you are interested in volunteering with ONFE’s Volunteers in Education, please visit our program page.

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