Parents like Bridgette Sinegar are getting extra help from Joliet Public Schools District 86 to be more involved in their children’s learning.
Sinegar, who has two children who attend A.O. Marshall Elementary School, was one of dozens of parents who attended the Parents as Tutors pilot program earlier this fall.
The program, which focused on parents of kindergarten and first-grade students, along with a Parent University program in late October, is part of how District 86 officials are reaching out to parents and getting them involved in the education process.
“[Parents as Tutors] was very helpful, especially for parents who did not know how to help their children. It helped me to understand why they came up with the pilot program and at the grade level they started with it,” Sinegar said.
District officials said increased parent involvement in schools is part of its strategic plan. Parent engagement was an action statement under the goals of the plan, said Tanisha Cannon, assistant superintendent for student services.
“Our goal is always to increase involvement and to increase awareness with our parents. They are an integral part in terms of educating their child. It’s just another effort to increase [that],” Cannon said.
Cannon said during Parents as Tutors, parents are given curriculum books that include activities focusing on enhancing children’s literacy skills. She said the district wants to build on foundational skills such as literacy for students in kindergarten and first grade because it’s a critical time for them.
Superintendent Theresa Rouse mentioned the parent involvement programs at a chat session in September at the Forest Park Community Center, saying she hoped the Parents as Tutors program would become district wide in the future. It was piloted at Marshall and Edna Keith Elementary School.
Rouse and other district officials held the first-ever Parent University on Oct. 22. The event included workshops that addressed academics, college and career readiness, community resources, health and wellness, special education and technology.
Parent University had a keynote speech from Clay Roberts, a consultant and speaker who worked with Rouse when she was previously superintendent at King City Union School District in California.
“My hope is this is the first of many,” Rouse told a crowd of parents at the event.
Roberts introduced parents and educators to the list of 40 development assets identified by the Search Institute as the “building blocks of a healthy development” for children that include items such as family support, caring school climate, positive peer influence and more.
“Those of you who are parents in this room – you are the most important person in the lives of your children. Not the school system, not the church. … And they all have a role to play, don’t get me wrong,” Roberts said.
He said there are families that are economically poor but “asset-rich,” and vice versa. He said children don’t need more things but more positive adult presences in their lives.
“Notice you can’t buy what’s on this list. It’s not for sale. Positive values are not for sale at Target, right? So don’t confuse developmental assets and economic assets,” Roberts said.
The best way to build the assets in the list is for parents and peers to model, or lead by example, he said. If parents want their children to be respectful and hard working, they should be a model for it, he said.
“If you want them to be good readers, read to them. In English or in Spanish, it doesn’t matter. Read. Modeling is the most powerful way of teaching,” Roberts said.
Sinegar said she helps her children with their homework and to succeed in school on a daily basis.
“My goal is I’ll do whatever I can – I’ll communicate with the teacher – I’ll do whatever I can to help my child become better than me,” she said.
But taking part in the Parents as Tutors program helped to give her a better perspective on why district officials and staff are trying to help parents educate their children while also helping her to be more like a teacher at home.
“A lot of people send their kids to school and when they come home, some of the parents are not as equipped to help them out with their studies or be able to help them out of certain situations they get stumped on or encourage them to continue to their study,” Sinegar said.
-By Felix Sarver (Email)