A grandmother of a Tussing Elementary School student has parlayed her love of knitting into an after-school program that's given students incentives to stay on track in the classroom and learn new skills for life.

A grandmother of a Tussing Elementary School student has parlayed her love of knitting into an after-school program that's given students incentives to stay on track in the classroom and learn new skills for life.

In recent years, Denise Yauch has become a fixture at Tussing, attending a number of her grandson's school programs.

While there, she also kept busy with her ever-present knitting supplies that Yauch said "you won't see me without."

Last year, Tussing Principal Jeannette Henson took note, and approached Yauch about her interest in volunteering to lead a program in which she could share her passion with students.

"I was always in the corner knitting," Yauch said.

"Ms. Henson said, 'I know what you can do.' "

The Tussing Knitting Club was formed shortly thereafter and a small but dedicated group of six, third- and fourth-grade girls started attending classes led by Yauch from 9 to 9:30 a.m. once each week.

This year, the club grew in popularity to the tune of 49 third- and fourth-grade girls participating, and Yauch began providing free knitting lessons for one hour after school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"I discovered one day a week wasn't enough time," Yauch said. "The interest was so great."

While anyone was welcome to join the club, Yauch instituted a few rules.

The primary standards were that students must regularly attend classes and maintain good behavior.

The incentive-based concept is one employed by numerous clubs offered at Tussing.

From there, Yauch has taught girls at the school basic knitting techniques she picked up when she started the hobby at 12 years old.

The club is supplied largely from donations provided by local churches, a $250 grant from Thrivent Financial Group and scraps of materials Yauch picks up wherever she can find them.

"At first, it took me a long time to learn how to knit," third-grader Anna Axelson said recently.

"Eventually, I learned," she said.

"I'm making a scarf for myself and one for my doll. Also, I'm working on a wash cloth for Mother's Day."

Third-grader Khadijetou Ba said, "I like Knitting Club because you get to learn how to knit, and you can make your own clothes and not have to buy them at the store.

"I think it's fun, too, because I never knew I could do it."

Teaching a useful skill is part of Knitting Club's objective, Yauch said.

She also has seen how it helps reinforce teamwork and socialization.

"It teaches them a skill they'll never forget no matter where they go," Yauch said.

"It's just been a pleasure.

"Little minds retain so much," Yauch said.

"To watch them grow from, 'I don't know how to hold a needle,' to casting on has been a delight."

Last week, Knitting Club students held a party in which they showed off their creations, and Yauch said she'll be back next year to continue her work, which she believes has yielded the first known after-school knitting program.

"The third-graders who have done it come back in fourth-grade as my advanced club members," she said.

"It's popular with the girls and so far, so good."