Unsung Hero: Great-grandmother pops into New Malden school to help children with reading and sums

This Is Local London: Volunteer Jean Holden with her students Volunteer Jean Holden with her students

A New Malden great-grandmother who volunteers at a school by reading stories and teaching sums to children has said she tries to make everything fun for the little ones.

Volunteer Jean Holden, 77, has been a godsend to busy teachers who get a bit of a break when she pops in to help children at Christ Church New Malden with their maths puzzles every week.

The former Kingston Hospital midwife said: “When I first started with this one class they struggled and now they have got better – it is wonderful.

“We do sums with sugar cubes. So many of the children call me Nanny Jean.

“The teachers are brilliant. They always set it out for us. I get on with all the mums and they all come to talk to me – I love it.”

Mrs Holden has been coming in to the Lime Grove infant’s site for about seven years and has also helped out at the Chestnut Grove junior school site over the years.

The Graham Road resident, who has lived in the borough for about 50 years and watched her own family grow up in the school, said: “I have always been surrounded by children – it’s lovely. “I really enjoy them. I try to make everything fun with them.”

The school helper said she often thought up challenges such as counting her nail polished fingers or the beads on her jewellery.

The mother-of-three, who has also spent years reading stories about cars or finding treasure to children, said she loved to help in a crisis.

Mrs Holden said: “One little boy’s mum got caught up with work in London and he was not feeling too well so I picked him up and we went for tea. Now he’s a bit older and he says ‘Do you remember when we went for tea Nanny Jean?’”

In her spare time Mrs Holden still enjoys good food and a bit of a boogie.

She said: “I go up to London quite often. I do like to eat as well. I love to dance. I was the jive queen of Hackney. I was a proper East End girl before I moved to Kingston.”

On being nominated an unsung hero, she said: “I feel wonderful. “I feel a little bit embarrassed because I know there are so many people who do so much. I just hope I’m worthy.”

Do you know an unsung hero? Call 020 8744 4244 or email jon.sharman@london.newsquest.co.uk.

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