Category: Parent Teacher Leadership Academy

Parents and Teachers Present School Project in PTLA’s Sixth Session

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By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

Parents and teachers presented group projects in the final Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) meeting of the academic year at the Bryant Conference Center on March 12.

“I want to thank all of you for making an investment of your time to support your school team. I know what that means to you,” said Andrea Ziegler, director for Community Education, Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP). “Thank you all for the extra effort you made to come to these evening events.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the PTLA graduation ceremony has been moved online. The virtual graduation celebration will be on Facebook (UA Parent Teacher Leadership Academy page) Thursday, May 7 at 7 p.m. The celebration will include prizes and PTLA grant winner announcements.

Parents and teachers joined together to present their group school projects. There were two rounds of presentations, giving each school the chance to their projects and explore other teams’ projects.

Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools–Elementary presented their project “Math in Motion,” which is a continuous project from last year. This project helps students learn math in a more practical way. Honors College students were invited to be paired with students from second to fifth grades to help them learn math through different activities. “We tried to get more parents and more UA students involved this year,” said Allyson Pitzel, a fourth grade teacher at TMS-Elementary. “We also added second grade this year.”

Rock Quarry Elementary displayed their project “Building the Future with STEAM.” (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.) This project encourages students to get involved in the different fields of study and for schools to invite specialists from the different STEAM fields to visit so that students can have conservations with them.

Maxwell Elementary School displayed projects from its “Arts Night” program and University Place Elementary from its “Multicultural Party.”

Because these projects require financial support, CCBP Executive Director Dr. Jim McLean presented information on how schools can apply for funding. Following his remarks, teams spent time working on PTLA grant applications.

Communication, Project Presentations, Other Matters Covered at PTLA Session

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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.”

PLA and TLA Hold Joint Session

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By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA) and the Parent Leadership Academy (PLA) held a joint meeting at the Bryant Conference Center on Thursday, October 24. It was the second meeting of this academic year.

Andrea Ziegler, CCBP director of Community Education, welcomed everyone, reviewed session one, and introduced guest speaker Marsha D. Greenfeld to the audience.

Greenfeld is senior program facilitator with the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University. She provides professional development to help leaders in organizations throughout the nation implement and sustain goal-linked programs of family and community involvement. She also develops and conducts workshops and provides technical assistance on all aspects of partnership program development.

For teachers and parents in the PTLA October meeting, Greenfeld held an interactive session titled “Your Child Matters and What We Do Matters: Partnerships Help Make the Difference!”

To warm up and prepare teachers and parents, Greenfeld asked them to think about a leader they admired. From there, she encouraged them to be the kind of leader they would follow. She also encouraged them to think about the role they play in creating effective partnerships that matter to student success. Teachers, she said, can help students by sharing information with their parents, encouraging families to support, understanding students’ family backgrounds and celebrating students’ success.

Later Greenfeld asked the group to share their experience as a student. She reminded them that if children don’t think anyone cares, they often think what they are doing doesn’t matter, and don’t perform as well as they could. “If a dad just asks ‘how’s school today?’ the student does better,” Greenfeld said. Therefore, it is important to have parents and communities involved. In this way, students will have multiple sources of support to succeed in school and in other activities.

Greenfeld asked parents to discuss the best qualities about their children and the dreams for their children. Reynelda Huggins, a mother of a student in Davis-Emerson Middle School, told the group: “My child is caring, and he is very enthusiastic about learning. I desire for my child to dream big. I want him to be resilient and competent.” Greenfeld encouraged parents to be encouragers, role models, and supporters to help their children to achieve their dreams.

In the second half of the session, Greenfeld guided teachers and parents to plan their school projects for this year. Greenfeld provided the framework of six types of involvement offered by Dr. Joyce L. Epstein to help teachers and parents design their projects. Greenfeld suggested teachers and parents design the project with involvement from parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision-making and collaborating with the community.

Huggins, who is also a 7th-grade math teacher at Davis-Emerson Middle School, said, “I learned a lot from tonight’s session, and I am looking forward to seeing our project come out.”


Parent Teacher Leadership Academy Launches 2019–2020 Academic Year

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By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA), a partnership between The University of Alabama and five school districts including Tuscaloosa City Schools (TCS) and Tuscaloosa County School System (TCSS), conducted its first session of the 2019–2020 academic year on Sept. 26 at the Bryant Conference Center.

This is the 12th year of the program, whose purpose is to provide professional and leadership development for parents and teachers through the application of research-based practices that support student achievement by establishing strong family/school partnerships.

The day session consisted of teacher teams from the participating schools. Lynn Evers facilitated the elementary teacher session, and Dr. Liza Wilson of the College of Education facilitated the middle school teacher session. A highlight of the day occurred when last year’s participants shared their projects with this year’s attendees. Teachers from Hillcrest Middle School and Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary School, respectively, presented their projects “HMS Bootcamp” and “Magnet Math Motivation” from the 2018–2019 PTLA year.

Dr. David Scott, director of professional learning for TCSS, shared with participants about the new platform for each school’s continuous improvement plan. Andrew Maxey, director of special programs for TCS, spoke with the middle school teachers on “Building Accomplished Middle Level Practice.” 

The evening session for parents began as Dr. James E. McLean, executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), welcomed attendees and gave opening remarks. Andrea Ziegler, CCBP director for Community Education, introduced staff and speakers.

To help parents better understand their roles on their PTLA team, Marvin L. Lucas, a member of the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education, conducted a session titled “Parents as Leaders: Building Leaders within Your Schools.” Lucas emphasized the importance of parents participating in their children’s education.

“Where is your heart?” he asked. “Your heart is your child. Now you need to do what you do for your child for other children as well. That’s the reason you came here tonight.”

Karen M. Davis, principal of Hillcrest Middle School, and Preeti Nichani, principal of Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary School, shared their experiences with PTLA programs. Their session was called “Where Does PLA Fit into the School Puzzle?” In the session, Davis shared her personal experience of how she became a teacher. “I hated math growing up,” she said, “but somehow I began to love math because of the teacher. And because of that, I became a teacher myself. As a principal, I have discovered that the key to any learning is the relationship. I believe that no great learning comes without great relationships.”

Nichani expressed enthusiasm about a project titled “Math In Motion,” in which UA engineering students worked with third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students in Nichani’s school. She said she even had a few boys come to her and say, “‘I like math. I think I’m going to be an engineer one day.’ So just planting the seed in their mind that they like math is huge.”

She also said when parents, educators and administrators come together, everyone benefits, especially the children.

The teams from Hillcrest Middle and Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary shared their projects again with the parent participants.

Dr. Blake Berryhill, assistant professor of human development and family studies, introduced attendees to the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy assessment process. 

There will be five more sessions this academic year, on Oct. 24, Dec. 5, Jan. 16, Feb. 13 (parents only) and March 12, with graduation on April 14, 2020.



PTLA Celebrates 2019 Graduation


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By Yiben Liu CCBP Graduate Assistant

Diane Kennedy-Jackson Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs

The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) marked the culmination of the 2018–2019 academic year on April 9, when parent and teacher participants and their families, along with superintendents and principals from participating schools, gathered at the Bryant Conference Center for the 2019 graduation ceremony.

“We are delighted to have each of you with us tonight to celebrate our 2018–2019 graduates and their accomplishments,” said Program Manager Whitney Sewell as she welcomed the more than 250 guests in attendance. “This evening we are proud to recognize 80 parent graduates and 79 teacher graduates from our 6 participating school districts,” Sewell continued. “Graduates, we welcome you and your families and are pleased to honor you this evening.”

Sewell went on to share that PTLA is a unique leadership program in that it provides both research-based professional development to parents and teachers and a structure for application of that new knowledge, as evidenced by the teams’ project proposals that were on display. In total, 159 participants worked in parent-teacher teams to develop 41 projects and initiatives focused on student education; each aligned with one of their school’s improvement goals.

School systems participating in the 2018–2019 PTLA program include: Alabaster City Schools, the Fayette County School District, the Lamar County School District, Sumter County Schools, the Tuscaloosa City School District and the Tuscaloosa County School System. Principals from each of the 41 participating schools attended the ceremony, as did superintendents from four of the six districts.

Graduate delegates of each sub-academy within the program shared their feelings and experiences of the year-long program, which offered learning on such topics as Parents as Leaders: Building Leaders Within Your Schools, Strengthening Collaboration to Support Student Success, Fostering a Culture of Collaboration and Communication, and You Matter and What You do Matters.

Bronjalin Sparks, Creek View Elementary, spoke on behalf of the Parent Leadership Academy, while Holt Elementary School’s Esperanza Erreguin represented the Hispanic Parent Leadership Academy. Representing the Elementary Teacher Leadership Academy was program graduate Angel DuBose-Thomas, Livingston Junior High. Traci Rogan of Hillcrest Middle School spoke on behalf of the Middle School Parent Leadership Academy and Curtis Gosa, Westlawn Middle School, on behalf of the Middle School Teacher Leadership Academy.

Sparks said that after each session she was excited to apply and practice the knowledge she learned from PTLA. She also appreciated the connection with the teachers, which she may not have been able to have otherwise.

Erreguin thanked the passion every participant and facilitator brought to this program. “Without passion, we won’t be able to do or become better,” said Erreguin.

Being both a teacher and a parent, DuBose-Thomas said she enjoyed herself and wished more people could come, noting that PTLA provides a great opportunity to have parents and teachers come together to help students.

Rogan is a returning participant. She and her teammates expanded their previous year’s project, aimed at preparing 6th-grade students and parents for middle school. “Now, more than ever, it is vital that we are active participants of our children’s education,” said Rogan, who shared that she thought PTLA provided effective instruction.

Gosa shared his experiences as both a student and teacher. “PTLA has given me the opportunity to reach back out to the community,” he said. “And school won’t work without the community.”

PTLA facilitators include Lynn Evers, Elementary Parent Leadership Academy, Kaye Ridgway, Middle School Parent Leadership Academy, Kara Bernal, Hispanic Parent Leadership Academy and Dr. Liza Wilson (senior associate dean and professor in the College of Education at The University of Alabama), Middle School Teacher Leadership Academy.

Following the presentation of certificates by Sewell, Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president of The University of Alabama’s Division of Community Affairs, gave the closing remarks. “I appreciate all your efforts,” said Pruitt: “I always believe, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”

Pruitt’s sentiments echo the PTLA mission of “Building Community by Supporting Children and Families.” It is a mission that not only states the purpose of PTLA, but that echoes its values — values that are mirrored by the University’s strategic plan as a community-engaged institution.


PLA Presents Group Projects in Final Meeting Before Graduation Ceremony

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By  Yiben Liu CCBP Graduate Assistant

The Parent Leadership Academy (PLA), a program of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) at The University of Alabama, held its final regular meeting at the Bryant Conference Center on March 7. The next gathering of this group will be an April 9 graduation ceremony. PLA includes four units, the Elementary PLA, Hispanic PLA, Pre-K PLA, and middle school PLA.

Lynn Evers, Elementary Parent Leadership Academy facilitator, gave the welcome. “We all realize this time of the year is very difficult for families,” said Evers. She thanked attendees for arranging their schedules in order to attend the meeting.

Participants presented their group projects to each other, and participants were granted two rounds of presentations in order to guarantee that each member of a group had the chance to explore the whole exhibition and communicate their ideas to others.

The Big Sandy Elementary School team hosted “STEM Night at the Sandy” on Feb. 28. During this event, each grade brought up a challenge related to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) and both students and parents were invited to work through the challenges together. The event was attended by 320 students, parents, teachers and staff members.

“We really get everybody pumped up!” said presenter Whitney Swatloski, who announced that the school plans to conduct the project on an annual basis. The biggest challenge, she said, was to get parents engaged during after-school hours on a workday. “We are super proud of how many people actually showed up,” she said.

The Brookwood Middle School team is planning an engagement day including a 5K and Fun Run, an Arts Festival and an Old Timer’s softball game on May 11. The targeted participants not only include Brookwood students, alumni and their families, but the entire Brookwood community. “We have an open gate,” said presenter Polly Anders. Anders said the original idea was based on the concern of the low involvement of parents in their students’ school activities. The goal is to bring school and community together as one.

Following the presentations, CCBP Executive Director Dr. James E. McLean led a workshop on grant application and funding.


Parent Leadership Academy Participants Learn About Childhood Safety, Behavioral Issues and Eating Disorders

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By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Fellow

This year’s Parent Leadership Academy (PLA) class learned how to help children with behavioral issues and eating disorders, and got advice about keeping their children safe in person and online during Session V, held Feb. 7, 2019 at The University of Alabama’s Bryant Conference Center.

“Tonight is school safety night,” said PTLA Middle School Facilitator Kaye Ridgway. “We will discuss everything from the role of a school resource officer to suicide prevention, just several different subject areas.”

Speakers included Sergeant Jeff Judd, with the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department; Chris Jenks, director of technology for Tuscaloosa City Schools; Linda Knol, PhD, RD, director of human nutrition and culinary medicine at UA; and Jacqueline S. Hudgins, director of accountability for the Tuscaloosa County School System, who previously worked as an in-school interventionist and as a counselor.

“I’m here to explain how school resource officers interact with the kids, what they do and their role, versus what the role of an administration is, along with safety and crisis plans that we have in place at each school,” Judd said.

The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy, housed within UA’s Center for Community-Partnerships, utilizes research-based practices to provide professional development to parent and teacher leaders who use their knowledge to support students’ achievement through strong family/school partnerships.

“My main topics tonight are suicide, bullying and the mental health of young people. I will discuss trends and cyberbullying and what parents can do to intervene. Some of our topics will overlap,” Hudgins said. “We want parents and teachers to be aware of the resources available in the school.”

PLA includes the following groups: Elementary Parent Leadership Academy (EPLA), Hispanic Parent Leadership Academy (HPLA), Pre-K Parent Leadership Academy (PKPLA), and Middle School Parent Leadership Academy. All four held individual meetings Feb. 7, with the speakers rotating to each room.

Catanya Stager is the parent of a student at Maxwell Elementary School in Tuscaloosa County. The educational psychology doctoral student at UA found out about the program two years ago, but had to wait for a chance to join the class.

“I wanted to be able to understand how better to help within the community as well as at the school,” Stager said. “I enjoy the interaction with other parents and teachers and getting on the same page with them. I’ve gotten to know the administration at the school a little bit better.”

She said the program has shown her how to interact better with her children and foster conversation while playing board games, such as Monopoly.

In addition to hearing from the speakers, class members divided into individual school groups to work on their projects.

Stager said her group has decided to help teachers create lesson plans for character development.

“We will do kindness and have the teachers discuss with the children what kindness looks like in the classroom,” she said.

Academy participants Stepfon and Javelin Lewis have a daughter at Eastwood Middle School within the Tuscaloosa City School System.

“We’ve learned about the school leadership and have been enlightened about programs available at the school,” Javelin said. “I’ve shared information with parents who have children who attend other schools. We really enjoy the program.”

“We were already pretty hands-on, but with us on the group floor we have learned how parents can be more involved in the education of their child,” Stepfon said.

Rochelle Coleman, a parent who is also a Headstart teacher, said she enjoys the program because she knows she is learning things that will help her children, her students and her community.

“I’ve learned about things I can do to help my children retain more over the summer and how to ask detailed questions of my kids to find out what they are actually doing in school,” said Coleman, who said she shares the information she learns with other parents.

For more information about PTLA call Program Manager Whitney Sewell at (205) 348-5743, or email

PLA and TLA Participate in Joint January Session

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By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

UA’s Parent Leadership Academy (PLA) and Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA) both part of the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) held a joint session titled “School and Board of Education Relations: Family, School and Community Partnerships” Jan. 17 at the Bryant Conference Center on The University of Alabama campus. This was the fourth session of the 2018–2019 Academy and the second collaborative session of the Academy year.

Dr. James E. McLean, executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), welcomed participants and wished them a happy new year. Dr. Holly Morgan, director of Community Education at CCBP, gave opening remarks and reviewed the previous PTLA sessions. “In our last session, parents and teachers began their study of effective communication and collaboration strategies to explore ways to assist their children academically,” she said.

Participants first attended a panel discussion titled “Schools and Board of Education Relations: Effective Communication and Collaboration in Family, School and Community Partnerships.” Panelists included school leaders and experts in the field of education, including Dr. Wayne Vickers, superintendent of Alabaster City Schools; Dr. Kimberly Williams, director of curriculum and technology at Fayette County Schools; Vance Herron, superintendent of Lamar County Schools; Melissa Woods, curriculum director at Sumter County Schools; Dr. Michael Daria, superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools; and Dr. Walter Davie, superintendent of Tuscaloosa County Schools.

Panelists had a lively discussion with Academy participants about relationship building between schools, teachers, parents and school communities, followed by a question-and-answer session. Developing effective communication was the main theme of the panel discussion. “I don’t think we can do that [communication] enough,” said Davie. “In our school system … we are purposeful of our communication, and make sure we are communicating with all stakeholders, not just ‘some’ or ‘a lot.’”

While answering questions, panelists also talked about the challenges of building exclusive communication systems. For instance, Vickers brought up his concern about the credibility of social media. “Our generation has trouble trusting social media, but the young students don’t have any problem … that is something to be discussed,” said Vickers.

The second part of the meeting consisted of group discussion about PTLA partnership project planning. Teachers and parents were divided into groups based on their schools, and each group will utilize what they have learned throughout the Academy to develop a project that aims to enhance their school/community partnership. Groups will present their projects at the March meeting, prior to graduation in April. Morgan shared brief instructions on how to build and present project proposals.

Curtis Gosa from Westlawn Middle School said their group is developing a communication-enhancing project between the schools and the community, with emphasis on face-to-face communications. “… so that the school is better served and becomes the central heartbeat of the community,” he said.

“The collaborative work of our parents and teachers is a hallmark of the Academy,” said Morgan. “We look forward to this session each year as teams finalize their plans for implementation.”

PTLA Holds Third Session of Academy Year

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By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Volunteer

The UA Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) held its third session of the Academy year Dec. 6 on the campus of The University of Alabama (UA). The day’s topic was “Collaboration and Communication.” During the morning and early afternoon, teachers attended Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA) workshops and lectures for elementary teachers. Kara Bernal and Kristi Garcia, both with the Tuscaloosa City Schools, gave the lecture “Breaking through Language Barriers to Create Partnerships.” They introduced some of the obstacles bilingual students could face in school and provided examples. Bernal has been the ESL (English as a second language) school social worker for the Tuscaloosa City Schools for almost 19 years, and for the past four years has also served as the moderator/interpreter/translator for the Hispanic parents participating in PTLA. Garcia serves as the coordinator of the ESL program for Tuscaloosa City Schools. She began working in the program in 2008. She has also worked with Global Café through UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), as well as Voces de los Padres, a parent-led educational advocacy group, to assist limited or non-English-speaking families with involvement in schools and with the difficulties of assimilation into a new community.

During the TLA session for middle school teachers, Dr. Lisa Matherson and Dr. James Hardin gave a lecture on “From Parent to PARTNER: Digital Tools for Building Bridges.” Matherson, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Education at UA, has served as the LiveText FEM coordinator since 2015 and works with stakeholders in their implementation of the LiveText FEM tool for the College. Hardin is a clinical assistant professor of technology applications and assessment systems in UA’s College of Education. He has served as the College’s LiveText coordinator since 2010, and is also the College’s director of the Innovative Teaching and Technology Lab. Matherson and Hardin not only provided a list of digital tools teachers could use to communicate with parents, but also offered tips for them in the communication process. Following their presentation, Dr. Sara McDaniel, associate professor in UA’s College of Education, presented “School & Family Partnerships with Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.”

This meeting was the first session for teachers that offered different workshops provided simultaneously. In TLA for middle schools, teachers could choose between “Grades and Test Scores: Who Knows What They Really Mean?” by Andrew Maxey, and “Reading Activities for the Family” by
Carrie Jo Powell. Maxey is the director of special programs for Tuscaloosa City Schools. He served as director of middle school education for the district for the last two years and continues to lead system work at the middle school level. He also writes and speaks publicly about effective grading practices, transforming the role of the teacher in public education and leadership that works. Powell has been an instructional coach at Hillcrest Middle and Hillcrest High Schools since 2016. Prior to being named to her current position, she taught English at Hillcrest Middle for 15 years.

In elementary TLA, teachers could choose two of three available workshops. Topics included “Handling Sensitive Conversations” by Krista Snyder, “Transformational Family Conferences and IEPs” by Hannah Ruggles and Dr. Holly Morgan, and “Mindset Matters” by Lynn Evers.
Snyder is a speech language pathologist at Communication Advantage Inc. She received both a BS and an MA degree in communicative disorders from The University of Alabama in the 1980s. Her nearly 40 years of experience have provided an enriching career focused on giving communicatively challenged people of all ages the gift of improved skills. Ruggles is a graduate research assistant in CCBP, pursuing her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. She works directly with PTLA under the direction of Morgan, who is director of Community Education at CCBP. Evers is an elementary math specialist in the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative at UA.

“How to communicate with parents and students is a very critical thing for educators,” said Taril Slater, a Matthews Elementary School teacher. “I found myself sometimes in difficult conversations; where I know what I want to say, but you need to be professional and say the right thing. I learned a lot from the first workshop about that.”

Teachers said what they learned from the workshops was very useful and could be applied in their classrooms. “I’ve never learned about mindset until two years ago,” said Kaylee Neal, a teacher from Cottondale Elementary School. “Now I realize that it really is the effort you put into it or the time you put into it, but you have to make a choice to do those things. So now, I can make sure that my kids know that now and they are not waiting until adulthood to make those same decisions.”

Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success Stressed in Final Fall Semester PLA Session


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By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

On Dec. 6 at the Bryant Conference Center, the Parent Leadership Academy (PLA) held its third session of fall 2018 under the theme “Helping Your Child Achieve Academic Success.”

The participants were divided into four groups: parents of elementary school students, parents of pre-kindergarten school students, parents of middle school students and parents of Hispanic students. Each group participated in two to three workshop sessions designed specifically for the unique needs of students at each level. Parents were encouraged to choose from multiple speakers based on their specific needs as a parent and as a parent leader.

First-grade teacher Emily Glasgow from Buhl Elementary, speaking to the elementary school group, gave an interactive presentation titled “Achieving Success Through Purposeful Conversations.” She stressed the unique role of parents in the success of students. Considering all aspects of a child’s education, Glasgow said discussing school activities at home has the most powerful influence on students’ academic performance.

Woodland Forrest Elementary teacher Rachel Hill provided a presentation titled “Helping Your Child Achieve Academic Success: Math Matters” on efficient methods of teaching math to elementary students. Tuscaloosa County Schools’ Kay Haas conducted a presentation titled “Growing Successful Readers” aimed at developing reading skills among young students. “The most important thing that you can do to grow a reader in your house is to talk to your child,” Haas said.

The middle school groups also carried out two learning sessions. Andrew Maxey, director of special programs of Tuscaloosa City Schools, led a discussion titled “The Adolescent Brain and Student Achievement” in which he explained how to support adolescents’ psychological needs. Fayette County’s Sherry Corbett (reading and English language specialist) and Tuscaloosa County Middle School teachers Traci Primm and Samantha Heath gave presentations about coaching the students in reading, social studies and math, respectively.

Leah Lowery, parent participant and mother of a 7th-grade student, called attending PLA “a great learning experience.” “[Middle school students] are more complex,” said Lowery. “[PLA] gives us a different way to look at our children.”

Pre-K parents attended two sessions — “Growing Successful Readers,” presented by Dr. Cheryl Fondren, director of United Way of West Alabama’s Success by 6 program, and “Preparing a School-Ready Child: Using the ABCs,” presented by Rock Quarry Elementary School Pre-K teachers Alicia Berry Jenne’ and Angela McClinton. They gave specific instructions on how to teach young children to learn words and prepare them for school.

Amy Lamoreaux, mother of a 4-year-old, said: “We want to give our kids a jumpstart at education. To be able to do it at age four is amazing.” She said her son is giving her positive feedback every day.

Two instructors gave presentations to the Hispanic parent group. Coordinator of Secondary and Exceptional Education of Alabaster City Schools Dr. Keri Johnson discussed special education, and English as a Second Language (ESL) Coordinator of Tuscaloosa City Schools Kristi Garcia gave a report on ESL in public schools. Both speakers focused on how to address the special needs of students who speak English as their second language.