Posted Online: Dec. 08, 2012, 10:44 pm

Watch DOGS provides male mentors for students

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By Nicole Lauer

Knees may knock and brows may sweat when dad shows up to school.

The thought of dad perusing grades at parent teacher conference night or, worse, having to sit in the principal's office to discuss discipline issues could make any student's stomach turn.

That's not the case at Moline's Lincoln-Irving elementary building where dads, grandpas, uncles and other positive male role models are getting into the classroom, hallways and lunchroom on a regular basis.

About 50 dads and other significant male figures have been playing hooky from work once and a while so that they can spend a day at the school. According to Lincoln-Irving principal Sharon Lantzky, the school typically has a dad or other male volunteer at the school two to three days per week. She said they may be lending a hand to a teacher, serving as an extra set of eyes and ears and making connections with students.

The program is called Watch DOGS, or Dads of Great Students, and is an initiative of the National Center for Fathering. According to, the initiative seeks to organize fathers and father figures to provide positive role models and enhance school security. There are more than 2,276 active programs in 41 states. Locally, in addition to Lincoln-Irving, Butterworth also recently started a chapter.

"Students need the extra attention. Dads take a day off work and spend the day at school," said Ms. Lantzky. "They are an extra set of eyes and ears. They do a little bit of security, but mostly just are accessible. It's a way for dads to come into school when there's not a problem."

Ms. Lantzky said dads share skills and make connections with students. Additionally, she said there are fewer discipline problems since the Watch DOGS program has been implemented. She said the attention given by dads means a lot, particularly for students who may not have a father-figure at home.

Ms. Lantzky said each Watch DOGS volunteer is given a schedule to follow, but generally the bulk of their time is spent in the classroom working directly with kids.

First grade teacher Karri Dies said the dads make a huge difference to the students.

"My students' faces light up when they see them on the playground," she said. "Whatever you need, they do."

Ms. Dies said the dads are often someone the kids can talk to about issues who the students maybe are not so intimidated by. She said they do a great job working with students who may need extra assistance or just a fatherly influence. She said she would love to have even more volunteers join the fun.

Matt Karstens is among the pack of volunteers at Lincoln-Irving and has earned a reputation as "Top Dog." The PTA president is the father of first grade student, Grace, and was among the very first dad volunteers in the program.

Mr. Karstens said he works weekends so the volunteer opportunity fits in well with his schedule. He said a few other dads actually get paid for a portion of their time through an employer community service program. He said any dad who can fit it into their schedule won't regret the investment of time.

"It's kind of an ego trip. It's a sense of pride," he said.

He said the opportunity to make a difference for kids at recess, at lunch or wherever else one might be needed is invaluable.

For more information on the Watch DOGS program or for starting a chapter, visit and click on the Watch DOGS logo. The Watch DOGS office can be contacted by phone at (888) 540-3647 or via email,