Education: Bridging the language gap in Eagle County | VailDaily.com
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Education: Bridging the language gap in Eagle County

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson Avon Elementary "parent liaison" Heather Hay, right, walks students Jacqueline Solis, left, and Juan Marquez to her office for reading assessments Thursday at school in Avon.
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EAGLE COUNTY ” Vicky Reyes keeps two drawings at her desk made by kindergarteners at Edwards Elementary ” and she shows them to all the new parents who come into the school.

The drawings are depictions of their home life ” portraits of an evening at home with Mom and Dad. One of them is nonsensical ” a couple of scribbled stick figures with the caption, written in Spanish, “We went to eat chicken.” Not much else.

The other depicts a living room with a sofa and a desk and describes a loving scene at home: the student finishing his homework, and the father asking, “Did you do this yourself?” and the child answering, “Yes, I did,” beaming with pride.

These two drawings show the difference between when parents are involved, and when, sadly, parents don’t care, Reyes said. One student struggles in class, and the other doesn’t.

Reyes is a parent liaison for Edwards Elementary, and her job is to reach out to Spanish speaking families and get them involved. She spends a lot of time meeting with new Hispanic families, showing them the ropes, setting up meetings, translating school flyers, and really just being one of those go-to people to help when someone has a problem.

Her passion is getting parents to volunteer at school, or, at least showing them how important it is to spend more time with their kids talking about school and helping them with homework.

In Mexico, schools don’t really encourage the involved, time-consuming parental involvement that’s expected in American schools, Reyes said. Home-life and school-life are divided, and you’d never see parents in classrooms with a bottle of Elmer’s glue and cutting construction paper.

Many families may want to be involved, but could be a little intimidated to engage the English-speaking world of teachers and administrators, she says. Others, working long and late hours to make ends meet, have difficulty finding the time to do homework with their children or volunteer at school.

It should be possible for anyone though ” even 20 minutes a day at home can make a difference, Reyes said. When parents realize that, the children do better in class.

“If the kids feel supported at home, they feel more secure at school,” Reyes said.

Heather Hay is a parent liaison at Avon Elementary. Her job is much like Reyes’ ” lots of phone calls, translation, setting up community meetings with parents and getting them involved in the PTA.

“I’m making sure that important information gets home, and that parents are able to understand it,” Hay said.

Before she started working at Avon Elementary, bilingual teachers often had to be pulled out of class to help translate for parents, and now she’s able to take care of those situations, Hay said.

Next year, she wants to focus more on parent education, like holding workshops to show parents how to do interactive reading with kids at home. The kids are supposed to read every night at home, and when parents take the role of a teacher, students are more likely to understand, Hay said.

“When they talk with their children and ask questions, it definitely helps with comprehension,” Hay said.

Earlier this year, Reyes held a workshop with parents showing them how to use computers and e-mail. The kids were there as well, and they actually did much of the teaching, she said.

Bev Rasmussen, who also works as a parent liaison at Edwards, said that not every school in the district needs a full-time parent liaison, but having more of them could help.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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