Now 94, Fannie Irene Pittman Has Volunteered For 30-Plus Years At Bloomfield School

When Fannie Irene Pittman retired as a licensed practical nurse from the state, she remembered the advice she was given.

“They told us not to sit down,” Pittman said recently as she walked the halls of Carmen Arace Intermediate School in Bloomfield.

Pittman took those words to heart, spending the last 30-plus years volunteering thousands of hours in classrooms at the school as a foster grandparent for the Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters and helping keep or get young students back on track emotionally.

On this day, Pittman, 94, was working with a fifth-grade student named Marlon Britton. As she walked into the classroom Pittman was greeted by other students in the class before making contact with Marlon.

When the two met, Marlon quickly pulled out a chair for Pittman to sit in.

Asked what the two do together, Marlon said they usually work on math problems together, but he recognizes that is not the exact reason for their relationship.

“Sometimes I have anger issues and trouble with directions,” Marlon said. “She tells me things that help me get back on track.”

Asked why Pittman could have an impact on him when others didn’t, Marlon, 10, responded.

“She’s like my grandmother,” he said. “If I didn’t listen to her I would feel like I was doing something wrong.”

Pittman said her message to the students she works with is to show the teachers they are capable.

“Know your work and show them you can do your work, and they’ll look up to you,” she said.

Pittman initially thought she would be a substitute teacher at the school but changed her mind when she learned about the tax implications. Since then she has volunteered in classrooms. For most of the past 30-plus years she spent five hours a day, five days a week at the school, but in the last few years she cut back to three days a week, five hours a day because she doesn’t drive anymore.

The first teacher she worked with retired and passed away, the next teacher she worked with retired. Pittman has been working with Allen Perry’s class for about the last 10 years.

“I usually give her a student who needs a little extra TLC,” Perry said. “She’s very calm. I never hear a difference in her voice, even if she’s telling a student to sit down and get busy.”

Pittman, who is the grandmother of Nykesha Sales of UConn and WNBA basketball fame, said she enjoys the social aspects of being in the classroom but also believes she has had an impact on the scores of students she has worked with over the years. Some of them now have children at Carmen Arace.

“I get a pleasure out of coming out,” she said. “I’m just lending support.”

Pittman has been recognized over the years for her efforts for the Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters, including serving on its board of directors from 1999 to 2014 and being named foster grandparent of the year in 2010.

“Mrs. Pittman is a star — not only to the children whom she mentors, but to all of us here,” said Andy Fleischmann, president and CEO of Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Mrs Pittman is an inspiration to everyone she works with — students at Carmen Arace, administrators and staff at the school, staff and fellow board members at Nutmeg.”

Carmen Arace teacher Mary Kay Rendock, who has known Pittman said she started work at the school 30 years ago, agreed.

“Mrs. Pittman is a treasure,” Rendock said. “She brings a multi-generational aspect to our school, and the kids and teachers are so lucky to be around her.”

Pittman said she is proud to have seen some of the students she worked with go on to college and said she hopes she has left a mark at the school.

As for stopping or curtailing her efforts at the school, Pittman acknowledges that there are days when she feels like staying home.

“But when I get here I’m so glad I came,” she said.

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