When his grandson enrolled at Pasadena Elementary, Richard Watts started volunteering at the school. Now, two years after the same grandson graduated high school, Watts is in his 14th year volunteering at Pasadena Elementary.
“After he left, I didn’t. I continued doing it,” Watts said.
Watts serves as a helping hand to any teacher in need. On a shelf set up for him, teachers leave materials that need to be laminated, copied, made into posters, organized, etc. In the classroom, Watts helps students who need extra help with reading or word recognition.
“Whatever the teachers have that they need to get done, I work with them,” Watts said. “I’ve always felt that no matter what I’ve done with the school, the bottom line is it’s going to allow them a little more time with a child. That was my whole goal.”
Jennifer Quirino, principal of Pasadena Elementary, said Watts can be counted on for anything, even working as a shuttle driver to take teachers between the school and their cars on days when they have to park off campus.
“Mr. Watts’ sense of belonging and support is unparalleled,” Quirino said. “He often plans vacations around school activities and ensures volunteer needs are satisfied in advance of his personal plans.”
In addition to Pasadena Elementary, Watts briefly volunteered at Chesapeake Bay Middle School for a few years, and he started volunteering at Marley Middle School four years ago. Watts usually divides his week into Pasadena Elementary on Tuesday and Thursday, and Marley Middle on Wednesday.
“I’ve been retired for 14 years. It’s always given me a reason to get up in the morning to be able to go in and see a smile on a child’s face,” Watts said “They make me feel like I’m God, and I’m not. I’m just another person. I feel good, that’s all.”
Last year, after learning about the Medal of Honor, the fifth-grade class nominated people from the community to receive the school’s version of the award. Watts was nominated by the class, and students requested the award be named the Mr. Watts Service Before Self Award.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Watts said. “I don’t feel like I am doing anything special to get recognized for something like that. I’m happy about it.”
This year, Watts received the Volunteer of the Year award from the Anne Arundel County Public Schools system.
“I was shocked,” Watts said. “I feel that I do what needs to be done. I get as much out of it as they get out of it, just seeing them smile and being happy and being there with them.”
Watts has lived in Pasadena for roughly 50 years. He also volunteers during the vacation bible school at the Lighthouse Church in Glen Burnie.