GREAT FALLS- You may recall a wiser and older mentor in your life. Well, for past and present kids in the Great Falls Public School System, a 77-year-old woman who’s earned the nickname "Grandma Anna Mae" and has been a role model for students over the past roughly 17 years.
We share why Anna Mae Gomke is a Montana Treasure, and what sparked her attention for continuing to help these children out.
After retiring from retail when she was 59, "Grandma Anna Mae" wasn’t quite sure what to do with her spare time until she saw a TV ad about becoming a "Foster Grandparent".
"I like to be around kids, it keeps me young," said Gomke.
It's a Cascade County program encouraging people over age 55 to sign up as a mentor, tutor, or caregiver for youth in our community.
"They know so much more in first grade than I never knew in junior high, I swear. They're so much smarter, they're taught so much more," Gomke said.
Fast forward almost two decades, "Grandma Anna Mae" is still reading and teaching math to students five days a week. These students really look up to her, and she's quite the local celebrity.
"I'm walking down the aisle just shopping and he said uh I think somebody's following you and I turned around, and it was a little girl from school. So I went over to her and said hello, what are you buying, what are you doing, and she was happy, she bounced away," she said.
But the impact she’s making on children now is proving to last a lifetime. "Grandma Anna Mae" says she often runs into people who were in the classroom more than a decade ago.
"There was one that was in the mall. He came over to me, and I knew him right away. He had not changed that much, and then he says, 'grandma do you remember me?' I said, of course, I remember you, John! What's up?," said Gomke.
Most of all, "Grandma Anna Mae" enjoys seeing how each child grows throughout the school year.
"It's just fun to watch them get something or figure out a word," she said.
77 years young and still at the top of her game, all while making a difference in today’s classroom.