As early care and education providers, teachers and staff prepare for a new school year, including parents and families before the children walk in on the first day is a great way to build relationships and partnerships that will benefit everyone.
Timber Grove Elementary School took a new approach this past school year to welcoming students and their parents and families by hosting an event in the community instead of on school grounds.
Returning families and those new to the area had the chance to get to know teachers and each other over hot dogs and French fries at an apartment complex not far from the Baltimore County school.
Teachers and staff grilled for the families around the community pool for the “Tearing Down the Walls” cookout about a week before the first day of school.
“We wanted to engage the community, and we wanted [families] to know that we’re here for them,” said Diana Tedesco, a fourth-grade teacher at Timber Grove and co-president of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). “We want them to feel welcome and safe at Timber Grove.”
Tedesco and her co-president, third-grade teacher Courtney Long, decided to organize the cookout at the Timbercroft Apartment Homes after hearing about the idea at a conference. Another school had an issue similar to Timber Grove’s—dwindling parental involvement over the last few years despite numerous creative attempts to draw in parents and families.
Instead of trying to think of one more way to get parents and families to the school, the teachers did the reverse. They brought the school to the families.
“It’s amazing. I never heard of a community doing such a thing. It’s just great,” said Regine Nguilok, whose oldest daughter, Janet, transferred to Timber Grove as a third-grader for the new school year.
Nguilok moved to the apartment complex in Owings Mills earlier in the year, but decided to let Janet finish second grade at Reisterstown Elementary instead of moving her midyear. This cookout was a welcome surprise, giving her and her daughter the chance to meet teachers and new classmates in a fun setting.
“It’s caring. They really wanted to show us love. I love it,” Nguilok said.