Several parents from the Montevallo and Calera communities spent the morning learning about financial literacy from America’s First Federal Credit Union representative Chance Hallmark as part the first seminar offered through the Shelby County Schools Family Engagement Academy for 2018.
The Family Engagement Academy (FEA) is an initiative the district began in 2015 to provide families and teacher leaders with opportunities to develop their knowledge and abilities as leaders in order to support student achievement through strong family-school partnerships.
The most recent FEA meetings kicked off on February 2 at Montevallo Elementary School for parents from the Montevallo and Calera school zones. Parents will attend a total of four meetings that will be held through March 2. Parents from the Columbiana and Vincent school zones will also be involved in the FEA with sessions that begin in April.
Dana Martin, School Improvement and Federal Programs Supervisor said the district believes it can create positive outcomes in school communities by providing information, skills, and tools that will assist in increasing the knowledge of families to support the academic achievement of students.
As members of FEA, participants will have the opportunity to learn from educational and business professionals and most significantly, from each other. Parents will have the opportunity to talk with other parents about successes and challenges that everyone faces as they also work to make a difference in their schools. The family engagement program will also simultaneously connect parents to adult education and college and career readiness skills.
“We have intentionally included a cross representation of participants, advisory committee members, and educators,” said Martin. “The advisory committee of this initiative includes parents, teachers, principals, college in-service director, and instructional staff of Shelby County Schools, including the Angela Walker, Professional Development Supervisor, Leah Dobbs-Black, English-as-a-Second Language Supervisor and myself.”
As part of the FEA, parents will participate in a service learning project, which will provide them an opportunity to be engaged and give back to their local schools. The service-learning project will be facilitated by teacher leaders at each school and will include both parents and students.
“It can be anything that will benefit the school community,” Martin said about the service learning project. ” It will give the participants a chance to be empowered to be leaders in their community and build confidence to continue to be involved and lead.”
Martin said business and community leaders, as well as educators, will conduct each seminar. Teacher leaders will facilitate the service project, as well as the liaison connecting the academy and project to the local school.
Two of the desired outcomes of the Family Engagement Academy are increased support of students’ academic achievement at school and increased knowledge of the benefits of family engagement in both schools and the community. Other outcomes are to help parents become more effective in raising emotionally healthy and empowered children, to teach how to effectively discipline and motivate children, and to develop an appreciation of the successes and challenges experienced by other parents and schools.
Long-term goals of the initiative include transferring powerful values from adult to child, including responsibility, empathy, self-worth, and care for others and implementing timeless principles of the 7 Habits of Successful Families to create a nurturing and enriching environment for all family members.
In support of these goals, each FEA session will be focused on a specific topic that has been selected by the members of the advisory committee.
“Based on the wealth of research on family engagement and student success, we are seeking to provide our parents with essential information that can help them and other families to be informed members of their local school communities,” said Martin. “In each session, parents will have the opportunity to talk with other families about topics on the agenda and about ways they can take the information learned back to their own school community.”
Because of the emersion of technology in classrooms, the district plans to provide parents with experiences involving technology that will help them assist their child with school work. Parents who attend every FEA session offered will also receive an electronic tablet device to promote reading in the home.
“We acknowledge and celebrate the fact that within schools and families there are leaders,” Martin said. “We feel our Family Engagement Academy builds the capacity of these parents to be vital partners in the school and community and empowers them to be actively engaged in their children’s education, thus helping the child to reach his/her highest potential. Our hope is that these parents will experience life-changing benefits from the implementation of the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Families. For these reasons and many others, we are excited and honored to be working with them in this academy!”