Power of parent volunteers

A conference offers ways to engage the energy of those partnerships formed with schools

Education Beat

November 06, 2005|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

As president of the PTA at Deale Elementary School, Denise Motz finds that one of her challenges is making sure she taps all that wonderful volunteer energy offered by parents, especially the ones who want to help from home.

She found ideas at a workshop Tuesday called Building Successful Partnerships, one of a dozen such workshops offered at the ninth annual Parent and School Volunteer Conference. Building Successful Partnerships was the theme of the conference.

"They always share good information for us to take back," Motz said.

She also enjoyed a workshop called "Think 18 Years," which focused on long-range parental-skills strategies. "On a personal level, that was wonderful, just to reinforce the attitude you have with your children," she said.

Motz was one of about 125 parents and educators to attend the conference, held at the Carver Staff Development Center in Gambrills and organized by the county's Title I and Volunteer offices.

During the conference, hourlong workshops were held on topics ranging from "Positive Discipline Techniques" to "Math About the House" and "Grandparents Raising Grandchildren."

Attendees were given fat packets of information, with pamphlets offering advice on helping children with homework, keeping kids from tobacco, preventing sports injuries and more.

The workshops were offered by local experts, such as Fay Mauro, executive director of the Volunteer Center for Anne Arundel County, who spoke about "Mentoring - Getting the Community Involved in Your School," and Dana Denny, coordinator of Title I for the county, who spoke about Title I and the No Child Left Behind law.

The event began at 9 a.m. with breakfast and included two workshop sessions before a break for sandwiches, cookies and drinks. A third session was held in the afternoon with the conference breaking up at 1:50 p.m.

The conference was free and open to the public, and visitors could attend whichever workshops they chose. The workshops took place in the classrooms or computer laboratory, and most were held two or three times, to make scheduling easy.

Ann Weaver, the Title I project resource teacher for the county, said workshop topics were chosen based on questionnaires given to attendees the previous year. She noted that Title I schools - ones that receive federal funding for help with reading and math - are required to schedule activities for parents, and the conference counted as such an activity.

Teresa Tudor, administrator for Volunteer Programs, said all parent involvement, not just volunteering, was celebrated at the conference.

"If you're reading to your child on a regular basis, you're actively involved," she said.

Emily Pinkney, chairwoman of the Title I Parent Advisory Board, noted that the hourlong sessions this year were up from 45 minutes in previous years. That gave parents more time to ask questions and to network with each other, she said.

"It's been wonderful," she said of the conference.

During the lunch break, Elizabeth Morris, Gisela Navarro and Kim Brown sat together eating sandwiches. All three work at the Child Development Center in Fort Meade, and said they were attending the conference for the first time this year.

"I really enjoyed it," Morris said.

She especially liked a workshop called "Math Around the House" by Cindy Hankey and Karen Rains, early-childhood resource teachers, which gave ideas for teaching math using material in the home. A handout from the class showed examples of places numbers can be found around the house, including the telephone, microwave oven and television.

Navarro said she liked the handouts.

"We can pass that on to the other staff because everyone can't be here," she said.

ksnitkin@comcast.net

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