TOWN OF RAYMOND — Just off a country highway lined with family farms in the Town of Raymond, you'll find Raymond School. It's the building where Arla Ertl has dedicated decades of her life as an educator, substitute and now, as the school calls her, a grandma volunteer.
Fourth grader Noah Childers said he remembers looking forward to the days "Grandma Arla" would come to his class.
"My teacher used to always say, 'Grandma Arla is coming!' and it always used to be a very fun thing to have that experience," Childers said. "I love how she always used to read books to us. It's like there's a meaning to life when people are actually nice to you, you know?"
Other teachers at the school said the books Ertl read were of her own creation. She would cut out pictures from magazines and create whole stories around them to share with the students. It was her way of sharing her love of reading and writing in the classroom.
"She made an impact on me with reading, because she helped me learn how to express feelings with reading and learn how to write books," said fourth grader Anderson Bauer.
But Ertl has been out of the school for two years due to the pandemic. When the school learned she was celebrating her 90th birthday, students and staff decided to welcome her back for a birthday celebration.
Students and teachers at Raymond lined the driveway in front of the school as Ertl's family drove her past happy birthday shouts and confetti.
"It's just unbelievable that they would all come out for me," Ertl said of the surprise. "I've had so many of them and probably their parents and grandparents too. I didn't know I was this important."