HERKIMER, N.Y. – Kindergarten students starting at Herkimer Elementary School had a chance to learn their way around the school, eat lunch in the cafeteria and meet their new teacher during orientation Tuesday.
Some students, however, already had the opportunity to meet their teacher during the summer through the help of a new program.
The grant-funded Family Engagement Program allowed for a portion of Herkimer Central School District teachers visit with students at their homes in July and August. Through a school district news release, it stated the purpose of this pilot program is "to help create relationships and a feeling of teamwork between the schools and families."
"Through the home visits, families had a chance to speak about their goals for their children, while teachers discussed their expectations for the school year," it stated.
Kristen Stallman, a kindergarten teacher at Herkimer Elementary School, said teachers included with the program were four seventh-grade teachers, one pre-kindergarten, one kindergarten, one first-grade and one second-grade.
"[It’s] to make connections with family before school starts and build that comfort level," said Stallman. "[We want families to] know how important they are in their child’s education…[and] it also gives us a chance to know about the family on their turf."
Stallman said she got to visit with about 11 or 12 students out of the 20 she will be teaching this year through the program.
Stallman said in a news release that children were "eager to share their homes and loved to have their teacher there," noting that some played games with the teacher, while others showed their room and some even invited the teacher to stay for dinner.
"It was also an opportunity to discuss what their hopes and dreams are for their child, not just for this school year, but throughout," she said on Tuesday.
Stallman said as a teacher over the past 21 years, family involvement has seemed to decrease.
"It seems like something slowly started to dwindle away, for all different factors," she said. "[We want them to] know they’re welcomed and that we really do value their input."
Herkimer Central School District Superintendent Robert Miller said the funds for the elementary parent engagement program is through a Title I grant – which is a U. S. Department of Education grant given to an educational agency to improve academic achievement for disadvantaged students. Miller said the district’s Title I grant is about $390,000.