(Family Engagement is Key)
San Jacinto, CA – To start the 2019-2020 school year at San Jacinto Unified School District in a slightly different way, a team of teachers at De Anza Elementary were inspired to personally deliver, and not just make phone calls, a special welcome to the 72 families of kindergarteners about to experience their first day of school.
“We understand how many parents and kindergarten children feel on the first day of school,” said Tamra Simpson, TOSA Administrator for De Anza Elementary. “Most families are experiencing a mixture of excitement, nostalgia and anxiety—and the first day is filled with joy and tears from both parents and little ones,” Mrs. Simpson noted.
Teachers Elaine Johnson, Ruth Phillips, Jessica Long, and Kim Boessneck know this experience all too well as they have been teaching kindergarten for many years. However, this year their team decided they would exemplify a catch phase at SJUSD called The San Jacinto Difference. Instead of phone calls from an auto-dialer or parent notifications by mail, they would personally invite families to kindergarten orientation. They visited 72 homes to greet their students and delivered a gift bag that contained the book The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn.
“The book we shared with families beautifully illustrates the narrative of children starting school or facing separation from their loved ones,” explained Mrs. Phillips. The books were purchased with Scholastic Book Club points and the teachers’ personal contributions.
“We wanted to help our families feel welcomed and comfortable on the first day of school,” shared Mrs. Long. “And we know this really worked because of the great increase in attendance at our kindergarten orientation session,” said Mrs. Boessneck. Orientation was held on August 7, and included a tour of the school campus areas that students would be frequenting.
“I think our visit helped students not feel like they were being left with a stranger on that first day of school,” said Mrs. Johnson. By the time students arrived to school on August 8, most of them had already met with their teacher twice.
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