Family engagement is the key to De Anza Elementary kindergarten teachers making home visits

De Anza Elementary kindergarten teachers Ruth Phillips, Jessica Long, Kim Boessneck and Elaine Johnson make home visits to welcome new kindergarten students to school. Courtesy photo

SAN JACINTO – To start the 2019-2020 school year at San Jacinto Unified School District in a slightly different way, a team of teachers at De Anza Elementary School were inspired to personally deliver, and not just make phone calls, a special welcome to the 72 families of kindergarteners about to experience their first day of school.

“We understand how many parents and kindergarten children feel on the first day of school,” Tamra Simpson, TOSA administrator for De Anza Elementary, said. “Most families are experiencing a mixture of excitement, nostalgia and anxiety – and the first day is filled with joy and tears from both parents and little ones.”

Teachers Elaine Johnson, Ruth Phillips, Jessica Long and Kim Boessneck know this experience all too well as they have been teaching kindergarten for many years; however, this year their team decided they would exemplify a catch phase at the district called “The San Jacinto Difference.” Instead of phone calls from an auto-dialer or parent notifications by mail, they decided they would personally invite families to kindergarten orientation. They visited 72 homes to greet their students and delivered a gift bag that contained the book “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn.

“The book we shared with families beautifully illustrates the narrative of children starting school or facing separation from their loved ones,” Phillips said.

The books were purchased with Scholastic Book Club points and the teachers’ personal contributions.

“We wanted to help our families feel welcomed and comfortable on the first day of school,” Long said.

“And we know this really worked because of the great increase in attendance at our kindergarten orientation session,” Boessneck said.

Orientation was held Aug. 7, and included a tour of the school campus areas that students would be frequenting.

“I think our visit helped students not feel like they were being left with a stranger on that first day of school,” Johnson said.

By the time students arrived to school Aug. 8, most of them had already met with their teacher twice.

Submitted by San Jacinto Unified School District.