As Lenny Tietz waits for his 9-year-old daughter to get back to school from a fire safety field trip Oct. 3, he is greeted with high-fives from her classmates.
Tietz has become a familiar face for students, faculty and staff at Hayward Elementary School through a new program that encourages father figures to spend time with students for an entire day.
"When parents are involved in your school good things happen. Students turn in their homework, work hard and behave," Hayward principal Scot Davis said. "Research shows that when fathers are involved students stay in school and graduate from high school. The benefits are immediate and are also long lasting."
On Sept. 22, Tietz spent the day at Hayward for the school's first-ever Watch Dads Of Great Students program, a national program that promotes father involvement to support education and safety.
Tietz was designated as the program's Top D.O.G., meaning he serves as a liaison between the school, principal and other adult father figures to get the program going in the school. Tietz is spreading the word about the program to get more male role models to spend a day in the school.
Tietz attended classes with his daughter, third-grader Madisen Teitz. He ate lunch with students, courtesy of the school, and played with students at recess.
"I discovered that I couldn't get a ball out of a tree," he said while laughing. "It was too high."
He also got to experience what students go through during a lockdown procedure.
On Sept. 22, all of the schools in Nebraska City implemented lockdown procedures due to a bomb threat to Best Western. He said students weren't alarmed, classes resumed as usual and the experience was "informative."
"I was in the classroom and (the students) were OK because the teacher was there. So I went and tracked down Mr. Davis and he let me know what I could do so that I could free him up to do more administrative functions with the schools," he said. "He said it was really nice to have an extra set of adult male eyes looking out for the kids. That's really what the program is all about."
He roamed from class to class watching teachers and students.
"I learned that we have amazing teachers in Nebraska City. They do an amazing job with the kids, and the kids are better off because of our teachers and they're better people because of our teachers."
That evening, 120 adult men attended a meeting about the program.
Tietz said there are currently 30 adult males signed up for the program. Men can register to be at the school for a day or more, and background checks are required for each volunteer.
"It's probably one of the most rewarding days that I've ever had because school today is not school when we went to school. It's so much different," he said.
Men who spend a day at the school get a doggie bag of prizes and a T-shirt and their child also gets a T-shirt.
Tietz is hoping to get more adult male figures involved in students' lives to sign up, and to also find three or four who would like to be a Top D.O.G. to help launch the program.
There's a calendar hung in the school's cafeteria that shows when father figures are coming to the school. Tietz said students get a thrill out of seeing their fathers on the calendar.
Madisen Tietz was delighted to have her father in her school.
"I was happy because he's my hero," she said. "Because he's a fireman."
Lenny Tietz said the experience also helps him be a better father at home as well.
"To see what they go through each day puts a vision of understanding for us," he said. "It was refreshing. It makes me have a little more patience."
He would love for the program to begin in other Nebraska City schools in the future.
Fathers or father figures who want more information or want to volunteer for the program, can contact Hayward at (402) 873-6641 or call Lenny Tietz at (402) 873-1248 or email him at lltietz@yahoo.com.
For more information about the program, go to www.fathers.com/watchdogs.