The Children's Institute Blog

A Closer Look at Volunteer Lou Mackey

Posted: Dec 22, 2017 by The Children's Institute

When Lou Mackey – a man who now sports a thick mane of white hair, pierced ears and a devilish grin – started teaching at Weil PreK-5 in Pittsburgh’s Hill District four decades ago, he had no idea his career with children would take him through 16 schools and end at The Children’s Institute’s Day School.

“I hit lots of ‘em – it’s kind of neat. You get a flavor of the city that way,” said Lou, who’s been working as a Children’s Institute volunteer for more than 20 years. “Coming to The Children’s Institute, if that environment permeated the Pittsburgh Public School, I’d still work. There’s so much support here.”

Lou started as a volunteer in 1996, the year before he retired as an assistant principal. He spent his early years here in the pool doing recreation-night swimming. Later, he worked with TDS students to clean the cafeteria or do landscaping on-site.

As students’ issues and diagnoses became more complicated or severe – a trend many longtime staffers have noted – Lou started assisting students in the A Store, a convenience-store-style shop at our Squirrel Hill campus where kids and teens are trained to work a register and bag purchases.

The A-Store was where we found Lou recently, tearing receipts for customers as a young student, nearby, pressed virtual buttons on the register’s touchscreen.

“I’m just not in a hurry to do anything,” Lou laughed. “It’s worked out well for me. I’ve been happy since the day I retired.”

A Navy veteran and Duquesne University alum, Lou jokes that he “just kind of backed into education,” as white-collar jobs were not plentiful in Pittsburgh when he left the service 50 years ago. When he’s not volunteering at The Children’s Institute, which is mere blocks from his home, he likes to golf and spend time with his wife, Michele, who’s also a retired educator.

Lou speaks in sweeping terms about trends in education over the years, but his voice becomes breezy when discussing his better half, who he met at a Christmas party for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“We danced and it was like ‘Wow!’” Lou said. “I walked her to her car, I saw her the next night, and four years later we were married. And it’s been good ever since.”

Lou is modest about his legacy among TDS students. Not Community Resources Supervisor Monica Smith, who called Lou “amazing” and stressed she was “beyond happy” with all he’s done here over the years.

“He has a natural way with the students that I cannot explain,” Monica said. “The kids light up when they see him as much as he lights up when he sees them.”

“It’s been a marvelous experience,” Lou added. “It’s a really caring group of people. It really is an amazing place.”

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