The Art of Appreciating Special Teachers

High quality teachers impact lives. We see it everywhere from the most advanced academic studies all the way down to the look on a child’s face when that child begins to learn.

May 6-10 is Teacher Appreciation Week and something we always need to remember is that teachers should feel valued for all of the ways they are a positive force in a kid’s life.

How do you do appreciate your child’s teacher? We all know teachers need supplies and funds for special projects, but sometimes an expensive gift isn’t necessary to show you care. The best gifts of appreciation often come from children themselves.  

One great way to involve your child in teacher appreciation is to help your child write a thank you note to the teacher, something that can be done at home. For kids who already have writing skills, it can be great practice in showing motor and language ability. And for preschoolers, dictating a note with parents helps literacy by representing sounds and symbols in a written form. Children love to illustrate too!

Writing a note and teaching appreciation helps a child learn to focus on the needs, perceptions, and ideas of others. Parents and caregivers can establish gratitude as a fundamental behavior in their children’s lives that will provide a fully enriching, lasting impact.

According to the Harvard University Healthbeat, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and built strong relationships. For young children, gratitude is expressed in consistently saying ‘thank you’ to others, making thank you cards, and identifying things that make them feel thankful, such as a favorite toy or a visit from grandma.

Another way parents and their children could show appreciation is through a creative project that can express thee same sentiment as a thank you note while also stimulating a child’s imagination. Talk with them about the things they like about their teacher and then channel it into a something a child can make: a picture, an art project, a craft, a necklace or beads, a sculpture with clay or play-doh, or a jar of their favorite things. The more heartfelt it is, the greater your teacher will appreciate it.

Lots of in-school ideas can have an impact as well. It could be something as simple as working with the principal to organize an applause parade in hallways as teachers head to their classrooms. Decorations can be effective, whether it’s a bulletin board or a classroom door. Or even just giving them some free time with a coupon for covering their responsibilities in the drop-off/pickup line. The national Parent Teacher Organization website has a number of themed ideas, too.

Teachers spend their days in some of the most important work possible — developing our kids. It’s important for them to understand how much parents and kids appreciate all of their hard work.

Home Visiting’s Powerful Human Stories

Take a step back from the compelling financial return on investment of evidence-based home visiting (EBHV) policy to study the true impact of this vital program through the lives of Tennessee children.

While home visiting boasts a remarkable $5.70 positive return for every $1 investment, it’s most powerful performance measure is best viewed via the experiences of thousands of Tennessee children around the state whose lives – and futures – are improved.

Home visiting is a voluntary program that works by deploying professionals to visit families in their homes to coach parents on how to support their child’s healthy development as well as offer connections to additional community resources and services to meet their child’s health, developmental and learning needs.

This evidence-based solution has repeatedly proven to strengthen bonding between mothers and infants, improve parenting skills, reduce abuse and neglect, improve health of parents and babies, and ready children for their school years.

The experiences told by Hunter and his mother Tyne in Nashville, and Itzel, Carlos and Alia in Nashville, and, through a terrific report in The Commercial Appeal by Jennifer Pignolet, the story of Shante and Ja’Mykal in Shelby County, illustrate the amazing impact of home visiting. Their stories demonstrate the real bottom line – home visiting works. By voluntarily accessing local community home visiting resources, parents are placing their children on a path to life-long success.

The preservation and expansion of these vital programs is essential for Tennessee’s most vulnerable children and families, but there are still far too many families with no access to help. At the current level of funding, Tennessee can provide home visiting services to only 1.7% of the children who would qualify for services. And of the 95 counties in Tennessee, 45 counties have no home visiting services at all.

These are the stories that go beyond ROI:

Sometimes a picture says a lot.

Hunter is building a tower out of colored blocks with his mom and his friend Tevri at home. It’s a photo that was years in the making, in part because of his involvement in one of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee’s most successful development programs.  The “I did it” badge he’s wearing reflects the confidence and accomplishment Hunter has experienced through his family’s participation in the program.

After she became pregnant, Hunter’s mother Tyne was referred by a friend to Healthy Families Tennessee, a home visiting program that provides weekly support for parents from pregnancy through when their child enters kindergarten. That’s how she met Tevri, a PCAT visitor.

“[Tevri] would just come once a week and she would go over where I should be at in my stage of pregnancy and just help me get ready for the baby,” Tyne says. “And then after Hunter was born, she would still come by on a weekly basis and teach me about his milestones.”

As Hunter got older, Tevri would mark his progress on everything from word acquisition to motor skills, often working with Hunter outside, drawing shapes with sidewalk chalk and mastering colors. The program provides what Tyne calls a “full spectrum,” helping her son master everything from letters and numbers, to recognizing emotions, to how to deal with them effectively.

Read the rest of the story here.

Itzel is protective of her mother today, forgiving her with words even though she didn’t have the easiest childhood.

“My mom didn’t know any better and she definitely didn’t have anyone to turn to,” she says.

Itzel’s mother called her names and made her daughter feel unwanted and unloved. It’s tough to grow up strong when you are neglected and told that you are a burden.

As a young adult, Itzel found support four years ago at a community baby shower on the Tennessee State University campus. Newly pregnant and “completely scared,” she learned about Healthy Families, an evidence-based home visitation (EBHV) program from Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee (PCAT) designed to support parents from pregnancy through kindergarten.

Determined to be a better mother than her own, Itzel was attracted to an opportunity through Healthy Families to obtain strong parenting skills and to make certain her daughter has a bright future.

Read the rest of this story.

Starting at home: visitation programs seek to aid vulnerable children in Shelby County

By Jennifer Pignolet, The Commercial Appeal, October 11, 2018

After three years, Cassandra Ruffin knows the first rule of visiting the Dennard family.”You cannot come into this home with only one book,” Ruffin said. 

So although she’s there specifically to check in on 3-year-old Ja’Mykal, she arrives at the Oakhaven town home with a bag of children’s books for the boy and his two older siblings. 

The three children sit on the edge of a tan couch and the carpeted living room floor, tearing into a picture book about a bumpy pumpkin and a Disney-themed alphabet paperback. Their mother, 33-year-old medical assistant Shante Dennard, helps Ja’Mykal turn the pages and reads aloud to him. 

It’s that interaction that Ruffin wants to see between Dennard and her children. 

Ruffin is a parent educator with Porter-Leath, an early childhood organization in Shelby

County. She’s known the Dennard family since before Ja’Mykal was born. 

The family is part of a bi-weekly home visitation program called Parents As Teachers that provides social services and support to about 300 clients with young children, all done out of the client’s home. Many families, but not all in the program, live below the poverty line.

Read the rest of the story.

Early Home Visiting Programs: Compassionate and Cost-Effective Policy

Backed by compelling data and amazing personal success stories, Tennessee Senator Steve Dickerson and Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Dunn are advancing an important solution to help parents develop the skills they need to give their young children a great start in life: increasing the state’s investment in voluntary, evidenced-based home visiting.

Home visiting professionals visit families in their homes to coach parents on how to support their child’s healthy development, as well as offer connections to additional community resources and services to meet their child’s health, developmental and learning needs.

This evidence-based solution has repeatedly proven to strengthen bonding between mothers and infants, improve parenting skills, reduce abuse and neglect, improve health of parents and babies, and ready children for their school years.

“In short, voluntary home visiting programs change lives,” Kristen Rector, CEO of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee (PCAT), recently stated. “We know that parents are their child’s first teacher and home visiting empowers parents to be the best they can be.”

PCAT, through its Nurturing Parenting and Healthy Families Tennessee, is the largest provider of voluntary evidence-based home visiting in the state.

“Of the children and families who benefit from the program, 98 percent show improvement in key areas, ranging from health to school readiness,” Rector said. “And with the proper nurturing in these early, formative years, children are better set up for success later in life. It’s even been linked to improvements in children’s behavior, cognitive development, performance in school and graduation rates.”

There is also considerable evidence that home visiting generates strong ROI: investments in home visiting programs reduce negative societal impacts immediately and in the long run. That transformation saves taxpayers substantial money by providing a return on investment of up to $5.70 for every $1 invested through reducing costs associated with child abuse, poor health and academic failure, and a corresponding increase in economic self-sufficiency.

The positive impact of home visiting is clear but Tennessee’s challenge is the need, which far outweighs what is currently available. Tennessee is home to 118,580 children younger than 5 who live in poverty, which often creates conditions leading to toxic stress and childhood trauma. At the current level of funding, Tennessee is only able to provide home visiting services to less than 2 percent of those children. And of the 95 counties in Tennessee, 45 have no home visiting services at all.

Dickerson, Dunn, Representative Gary Hicks and Representative Ryan Williams are among the legislative champions of investments in evidence-based home visiting programs (EBHV).  Tennesseans for Quality Early Education applauds legislative leadership on this vital effort and urges the Tennessee General Assembly to support their request for an additional investment of $1.5 million in home visiting this budget year.

The reasons are clear: Home visiting works. It is vital to the health and well-being of children, families, and communities. And it is enormously popular in Tennessee with a 70 percent approval rating among voters, according to a TQEE survey conducted in 2018.

The benefits of home visiting far outlast and outweigh the investments, as evidenced improvements in maternal, newborn and child health, reductions in child abuse and neglect; improved parent-child bonding; and improvements in children’s school readiness. 

These are exactly the powerful outcomes Tennesseans want – and deserve – from public investments.

More about Home Visiting

You have probably noticed we talk a lot about home visiting. That’s because it works! Unfortunately, even though the evidence continues to show the benefits of evidence-based home visiting, less than 2% of eligible Tennessee children have access. Put another way, of Tennessee’s 95 counties 45 do not have any type of home visiting program.

Here are few more resources supporting home visiting. Take a look and become a voice in support.

Why Evidenced-Based Home Visiting and ACEs Training for Early Childhood Workers Matters

The Research Case for Home Visiting

5 Things to Know About Early Childhood Home Visiting

Evidence-Based Home Visiting in Tennessee

Proven Results

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