Communication, Project Presentations, Other Matters Covered at PTLA Session

By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The Parent Leadership Academy and Teacher Leadership Academy conducted their third Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) sessions of the fall semester at the UA Bryant Conference Center on Thursday, December 5. Both parent and teacher participants were divided into elementary school and middle school teams for a variety of presentations and other activities.

The elementary school teacher participants listened to a presentation conducted by Lynn Evers, Elementary Teacher Leadership Academy facilitator, and one by special guest facilitator Krista Snyder designed to help participants acquire communication skills to build bridges connecting parents, teachers and students. Participants also discussed their school team projects.

Middle school teacher participants attended a presentation by Dr. Liza Wilson, senior associate dean of the College of Education, designed to improve their communication competence. Kantrele King, a doctoral student in the College of Education, and Krista Snyder, a speech pathologist with Communication Advantage Inc., conducted a session on handling difficult conversations.

Dr. Lisa Matherson and Dr. James Hardin, College of Education clinical assistant professors, presented a session on establishing strong bonds between parents and children using digital tools, and Dr. Sara McDaniel, associate professor of special education and multiple abilities, conducted a session on the importance of establishing positive behavioral supports among teachers, students and parents.

Woodland Forrest Elementary School teacher participant Erin Howe observed that when teachers and parents communicate with younger children, “being with them at that moment is most important.” When the child/student wants to tell you something, “that is the moment when giving them that time and showing them their value goes a long way,” she said.

Both elementary and middle school parent participants attended a project presentation by Karen Lindsey and Laura Wood, who are former teachers at Big Sandy Elementary school. Their project “STEM Night at the Sandy” achieved huge success a year ago. Lindsey and Wood explained in detail how their team developed the idea and implemented the initiative. The presentation titled “Math Matters” by Woodland Forrest Elementary School teacher Rachel Hill showed participants strategies of how to help their child with math through life situations and playing board games. Hill encouraged parents to find situations like getting change at the store to have their child practice basic math skills. Participants also listened to presentations titled “Mindset Matters” by Lynn Evers’, “Dress Rehearsal for Life” by UA instructor Dr. Amanda Cassity, and “Family Literacy Strategies” by Tuscaloosa County School System Instructional Coach Carrie Jo Powell. After the presentations, participants gathered as school teams to work on their team projects.

Englewood Elementary School parent participant Liza Nicholson said, “PTLA provides really useful information” for teachers and parents. Particularly, she enjoyed the idea of turning math learning into family games. “I’m going to do that tonight,“ she said.

Westlawn Middle School parent participant Courtney Helfrecht said she believes middle school students need trust and autonomy “to make their own choices,” adding that PTLA helps parents and teachers support the students and gives them the right tools. She said parents and teachers are working together to help students see that school is a desirable place to be to fulfill their goals “and is exciting at the same time.”

Maxwell Elementary School parent participant Kelli Williamson said she particularly enjoyed Evers’ “mindset” lecture. “I believe people can grow,” said Williamson. “[We can] change the way we learn if we are given the opportunity, encouragement and support we need.” She also said she believes support at home is very important for children, especially in their early years. PTLA provides parents with specific lessons on how to do that, she said.

Andrea Ziegler, director for Community Education in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, said “Our goal for this session was to provide teachers with the tools they need for productive communication and parents with the strategies they can use to support their child’s learning.”