By Mary C. Hunt
For almost fifty years, Irene Fast Wolf has been a constant at American Horse School. And now thanks to the dedication of the school’s library in her name, she’ll always be remembered as “someone who read stories” to children and adults who have come into the library over the years.
Called PeeWee by everyone who knows her, the nickname has always been with her. Given to her by her dad, the nickname, “PeeWee,” came along because she was the only daughter in her family.
Educated in the Pine Ridge schools, PeeWee began as a teacher’s aide (paraprofessional) under Betty Jean Hauck in a kindergarten classroom. She enjoyed working with the children and continued in this role for about 30 years, also helping in other elementary classrooms, spending some years with the 5th grade.
Twelve years ago when she was asked to become the school’s librarian by Superintendent Gloria Coats-Kitsopolis, she gladly took on the role and has been there ever since.
“I like working in the library because I meet children every day. They come in all day, every day,” Fast Wolf said. The best parts of being the librarian for Fast Wolf are the countless chances she has had to read stories to children, especially the younger ones. Books by Dr. Seuss are PeeWee’s favorite read-aloud choices for the little kids because of the fun and lively text.
“There have been lots of times that kids said things that were really cute!” Fast Wolf recalled laughing. One particular time she was to read a birthday book to one little girl because it was her birthday. “I had chosen The Little Bear’s Birthday for this girl. And she was sitting real quiet. I said, ‘Why are you so quiet?’ The little girl said, ‘I had a birthday party and none of the animals came. I don’t like that book!’” PeeWee can make a book come to life so well that the little girl was convinced it was real.
Asked what advice she gives to children and parents, Fast Wolf said, “I tell parents to keep them in school. Send them to school!” She encourages children to read at home every day and gets them to check-out books to read at home. She stresses the importance of reading and remembering what’s been read. American Horse School has a reading marathon when parents come into the library to read to their children. “I always give the parents advice about what to read.”
Fast Wolf is a reader at home as well, reading to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and helping them to prepare book reports. She enjoys reading anything, but particularly books about events in real life.
As our conversation concluded, I asked PeeWee how she wants to be remembered. She shared, “They put the plaque up by the window at the library so everybody goes by and sees it. I want them to remember every time they come into the library or see my name on the plaque that I read a story to them.”
Photo by Mandy Scherer
Irene “PeeWee” Fast Wolf was honored in December 2018 by American Horse School, which dedicated the school’s library to Fast Wolf. Pictured with Fast Wolf is Superintendent Gloria Coats-Kitsopolis, who presented the plaque which now hangs at the library.