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Community: Rotary's Citizen of the Year goes to 'kindergarten volunteer extraordinaire'

Community: Rotary's Citizen of the Year goes to 'kindergarten volunteer extraordinaire'

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Raymond “Ray” Plaut, recipient of the Rotary Club of Christiansburg-Blacksburg 2020 Citizen of the Year Award, poses with the bench dedicated to him in recognition of his service as a kindergarten volunteer at Blacksburg’s Gilbert Linkous Elementary School.

The Rotary Club of Christiansburg-Blacksburg presented its 2020 Citizen of the Year Award to Raymond “Ray” Plaut via Zoom ceremony at its Dec. 14 meeting. This award is “to honor an individual whose voluntary acts and services have made the Christiansburg-Blacksburg area a better place in which to live,” said Dr. Doug McAlister, chairperson of the club's award committee.

Known as “Mr. Ray” to the kindergartners of Gilbert Linkous Elementary School in Blacksburg, Plaut has volunteered with the students for the past nine years for approximately seven hours each day, 180 days per year, equating to more than 11,000 hours of unpaid volunteer service hours. With approximately 60 kindergarten students each year, he has impacted the lives of at least 540 students during this time.

Kindergarten teacher Tess Brooke said, “Mr. Ray’s day involves things you’d assume an elementary school volunteer would do, such as leading learning stations, reading to children and playing with students at recess. But our Mr. Ray does so much more!”

Brooke described how Plaut remembers students' birthdays, dresses up to look like he's 100 years old on the 100th day of school, uses his engineering background to give STEM encouragement, assists with traffic flow to and from school, and attends all school events.

“Many of our students think of him as the fifth kindergarten teacher,” she added.

Plaut retired from Virginia Tech’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department in 2008 after 33 years of service. He was the university’s youngest full professor when he was hired in 1975 and taught courses in the analysis, stability and dynamics of structures. He was the Dan H. Pletta Professor of Engineering in the College of Engineering when he retired.

Plaut began volunteering at Gilbert Linkous because his grandchildren live far away. “He feels like when he is reading to our kindergartners, it is as though he is reading to [his grandchildren]," Brooke said. "He truly is a kindergarten volunteer extraordinaire!”

The Citizen of the Year Award is just one of many examples of the Rotary Club of Christiansburg-Blacksburg's motto: "Service Above Self." Visit us on Facebook at @ChristiansburgBlacksburgRotary for more information.

Submitted by Terri Fisher

Submitted by Terri Fisher

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