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.