A Berrien RESA Newsletter

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October 2020 Volume 2, Issue 1

From the Director...

The Early Childhood Education Department are all back to work and continue to support the needs of our youngest learners and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Since the start of the school year, Early On and Parents as Teachers have been offering parents the option of in-person visits or virtual visits. Approximately 70 percent of our families have chosen to have at least some of their visits be in-person (some at their homes, some outside and some at one of our offices). If families want in-person visits, we have implemented several safety protocols to try to keep everyone as safe as possible – so far, it is going very well!


The Great Start Readiness Preschool (GSRP) sites are all up and running and all but one site is holding in-person classes. Only one site is still looking for a Lead Teacher and an Assistant Teacher.


Unfortunately, we have had to cancel all of our in-person family group connections and events for the remainder of 2020 – in January we will reassess the situation. In the meantime, we have been researching other possibilities of supporting families with young children by providing new opportunities that can be offered either virtually or outdoors.


In this issue of ECE MATTERS, we will provide department updates and feature information highlighting our Parents as Teachers program.


Have a happy and safe holiday season. Our next issue will be January 2021!

Kerenda Applebey, Early Childhood Education Director

Department Highlights

Strong Beginnings Pilot Opportunity

Michigan is offering a Strong Beginnings pilot preschool program for three-year-old children with factors that may place them at risk for low educational attainment. This program is based on research that shows similar children, who attend a high-quality preschool for the two years prior to kindergarten, have significant positive developmental outcomes when compared to their peers who attended a high-quality program for only one year. This pilot is offered by the Clinton County Regional Educational Service Agency, Office of Innovative Projects (CCRESA-OIP), under the direction of the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Great Start (MDE-OGS).


Strong Beginning’s structure is very similar to GSRP with some developmentally appropriate adjustments and the addition of a Family Liaison to support each family in identifying educational goals and barriers and identifying the resources needed to succeed in meeting those goals. After offering all current GSRP programs the opportunity to attend an informational meeting, two programs stepped forward to commit to participation in this two-year pilot (two more can be added next year). The grant application has been submitted. We will be notified by November 3 if selected, and programs will start January 2021.

Did You Know?

Parents as Teachers (PAT) is a FREE program available to any family who is pregnant or parenting a child under the age of three who lives in one of the Berrien County school districts.


Parents as Teachers is a federally-recognized evidence-based model for delivery of home visiting services that is utilized internationally. In 2017, the Berrien RESA’s Parents as Teachers Program was the first in Michigan to obtain National Parents as Teachers Blue Ribbon Affiliate status. The national office recognizes affiliates as Blue Ribbon when they meet at least 80 percent of their quality assurance standards.


The PAT program provides support for families through home visits, developmental screenings, community resource connections, and access to parent-child play & learn groups and events. The partnership with a family focuses on priorities and concerns of the parent(s) and is meant to touch on three areas at every visit: development-centered parenting topics (like sleep, routines, transitions, nutrition/health, etc.), increasing positive parent-child interactions, and family well-being topics (such as basic needs, mental health, parent’s education and employment, etc.)

Parents as Teachers Service Numbers from 2019 – 2020 School Year
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While PAT is available to any parent in the community, families are prioritized based on who has the most High Needs Characteristics. The research shows that these characteristics put children at a higher risk for educational failure – especially when two or more are present in the same family. The most common of these risks in Berrien County include: low income, child with a disability, parent with no high school diploma/GED, history of abuse/neglect in family, and mental health and substance abuse issues.
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Meet Our Staff

All of our PAT Parent Educators have a bachelor’s degree in education, family studies or a related field. We seek staff that possess the skills necessary to build strong relationships with families: establishing rapport, being strength-based, non-judgmental, culturally sensitive, reflective, and empowering. They are also culturally sensitive and reflective with their families and in their own practice.


After being hired, new staff shadow veteran staff providing home visits and playgroups. Then, they attend 40 hours of training through the Parents as Teachers National Center, through that process, they earn their certification and can officially be called Parent Educators. They continue their training over the next two years working their way through a list of topics and skills they need to learn. In addition, their certification requires continued hours of professional development every year, monthly reflective supervision, and annual observations and evaluations.

Getting Children Ready for Success in School

The overarching goal of the Early Childhood Education Department is centered on readiness for school success. One of the most important aspects of school readiness is reading readiness. PAT helps move families toward that goal by including literacy/book sharing activities at each visit. Parent Educators also talk with families regularly about the family’s plans for preschool after age 3. Another way PAT helps families prepare for school success is through regular monitoring of developmental and "Approaches to Learning" milestones. This monitoring drives discussions and planning around parents’ understanding of their child’s growth and development and helps get parents thinking about school at a very early stage.


After 3 years parents will be able to:

  • Encourage/promote curiosity in their child

  • Problem solve when parenting issues arise

  • Use evaluation and observations skills learned to reflect, problem solve, and set goals

  • Access resources effectively when needed

  • Maintain strong relationships with their child(ren)

  • Understand they have the skills to parent their child at any age

Safety First!

Here's a look at the personal protective equipment we use when doing home visits!
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Upcoming Events & Opportunities

Parent Survey and New Group Connections

We recently sent out a survey to parents of young children throughout Berrien County. We wanted to know what kinds of supports we could offer them since we are unable to provide our usual playgroups and events due to COVID-19. So far over 170 parents have completed the survey!


We are now summarizing their feedback and plan to offer some of these supports starting in November and continuing throughout this school year. Stay tuned . . .


GSRP Openings

Currently, the GSRP program has openings across Berrien County - we are at around 65 percent capacity. For this year, the State Budget was approved with a change-GSRP is able to serve all income levels - meaning even more families can benefit from the program! Be sure to share GSRP opportunities with families in your community. If you know of any child who turns 4 before December 1 and isn’t already in a preschool, please have the parents call their local district or the Berrien RESA for more information about GSRP.
To subscribe to our quarterly newsletter, visit the Early Childhood Education Department's website.





Nondiscrimination Clause/Title IX

It is the policy of the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency not to discriminate in its policies and practices with respect to compensation, terms, or conditions of employment because of an individual's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, height, weight, marital status, political belief, genetic information, disability or handicap which does not impair an individual's ability to perform adequately in that individual's particular position or activity.

Title IX Coordinator/Compliance Officer and for all other concerns:
Lynda Hurlow, Executive Director of Human Resources

Berrien RESA
711 St. Joseph Avenue
Berrien Springs, MI 49103

For procedural information, please review NEOLA Board Policy No. 2260