Families as Partners

Spring 2021 Newsletter

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Dear Community,

The past year has brought enormous changes in the lives of families across the district. Adapting to a rapidly changing environment brought on by Covid-19 has made flexibility, perseverance, and finding balance, critical skills during these challenging times. It has been a fruitful school year despite the challenges we have encountered. Families as Partners (FAP) continues to provide support and offer synchronous learning opportunities for parents, parent leaders, and Parent Support Specialists at the 21 participating schools.

We persevere in fostering solid relationships with families and building collaborative parent capacity and partnerships between schools and families. We have developed intentional channels of virtual interaction for parents to support and enhance their children's learning and each other. It has been inspiring to witness parents gain confidence in technology every step of the way. Parents have evolved and continue to learn and invest time in their well-being and self-care practices. They have looked inside themselves and to their strengths to support each other as we continue to navigate this school year.

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Parent Voices and Perspectives

We spoke with Sasha Salinas, a parent from Houston Elementary, about how her family has been doing this school year.

Sasha was "ecstatic" when she became a 1st year Parent Champion at Josephine Houston Elementary. She has always been a hands-on volunteer in the classroom. Sasha knew that in-person support would be challenging with the pandemic. During the fall, she focused on taking advantage of training sessions offered by FAP and is becoming an expert in remote learning tools like IPADs, QR codes, Zoom, See-Saw, and more. Sasha says, "I'm growing because of what FAP is providing." However, sharing the new skills learned with her school community in this new environment has been a challenge. She hopes to find ways to support and develop other parents this spring and already plans on hitting the ground running in the next school year. "There will be new parents, new students who always need help with technology," and teachers "will continue to use these online tools because they are part of our kids' generation," says Sasha.

After an incredibly challenging fall with everyone at home, Sasha and her family took a step back to evaluate their family's best learning environment. They eventually found a non-profit community-based learning pod where her kids continue with virtual school in a small stable group of students. Here, Sasha has continued her love of volunteerism by working on-site supporting other students and families. As Sasha remembers, when Covid-19 started, "work shut down, and I had no adult interaction, no volunteering, and didn't think about zooming with friends." It was an isolating and difficult time.

Now, Sasha and her family are finding new ways to stay connected and take care of themselves. Sasha loves to sew and has been making masks in the evenings when the kids are asleep. She also finds strength and hope when connecting with other parents through FAP's check-ins and Zoom meetings. Knowing you are not alone and that "we all have the same heartache and setbacks" has been a significant source of support for her. Sasha thinks if AISD could facilitate more sessions like FAP does for their community, it would be an incredible resource because if "parents aren't okay, kids aren't okay".

Sasha reflects with pride on the incredible resilience of her family and her community. When the winter storm happened, she saw how her community in Del Valle "rallied together to figure it out for one another - neighbors offering food, water, transportation." She realizes how much families can offer each other and that, in fact, "we are all in this together." Even with ongoing challenges, Sasha has renewed strength - "I think we will look back on living through something no one expected and see that still, we pushed forward."

Parent Support Specialist Highlights

Parent Support Specialists serve a vital role in our schools, supporting families, students, and communities. Their partnership is essential and valuable to AISD families! Families as Partners is full of gratitude for their support and collaboration.

Below are special recognitions from the principals!

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Parent Champion Model

To learn more about the Parent Champion Model click this link https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EQrW-hhiyY9e5aFvrqpMROy1Vd_YbB3X/view?usp=sharing

Parent Champions

As Parent Champions quickly pivoted to meet the needs of a new virtual environment, they have strategized on challenges and ways to support others this year. They participated in information sessions and support circles on topics of interest, such as special education. They shared how they cope with virtual work while managing activities to help their children with remote learning. To many parents, connecting to one another and recognizing that they are not alone in their day-to-day situation has been helpful. Social-Emotional Learning tools and skills that parents had acquired in past years were now more important than ever.

During the fall semester, Parent Champions presented and shared the practices and techniques they have been using with other parents. With the support of Resources for Learning, we collected a list of ideas created for parents by parents: English list- Spanish list

With the Parent Support Specialists' coordination, the Parent Champions assisted other parents in completing forms online during the winter months. They were able to help connect others with many resources, like winter coats, in addition to other available programs and community resources.

In early March, 70 parents participated in the "Healthy Families Healthy Kids" event. The event was a collaboration with the Amala Foundation who guided parents through a "Name it- to Tame it-Feel it to Heal it" exercise. Parents learned ways to manage stress and explore self-care and mindfulness practices. FAP is beyond grateful to the Amala Foundation team and James Butler, AISD Mindfulness Coach, for sharing these valuable tools with our families.

This semester, Parent Champions continue helping those who need individual or small group technology support on the different AISD platforms. They are also encouraging parents to participate in classes and learning opportunities that FAP offers at the participating campuses. Parent Champions are also collaborating with the AISD Parent Engagement Support Office & Parent Support Specialists to present and develop the parent virtual conference of ¡ADELANTE! coming up in April.

Upcoming Events

  • Survival English Course for adults online

    Click HERE for more information and to register.

  • Basic Computer Classes for Adults
    Click HERE for more information and to register.

  • Five-week literacy course for parents to help motivate their children to grow their love for reading Click HERE for more information and to register.

  • Courses from VELA for families of students with special needs Click HERE for more information and to register.

  • Adelante Parent Conference - April 9, 2021.

Visit AISD Website for a Wealth of Information and Resources

BookSpring wants to help families read together!

Apply to receive free books and materials designed to enhance the motivation and interest in reading directly at home. For more information click HERE.

United Way for Greater Austin

Provides ConnectATX to find up-to-date COVID information and to get connected to many community resources. To access information click HERE.

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