Melissa Rainey remembers when her parent educator, Diane Addison, through the Parents as Teachers program in Shelby County came to her house when she was a little girl.

Melissa Rainey remembers when her parent educator, Diane Addison, through the Parents as Teachers program in Shelby County came to her house when she was a little girl.

She remembers doing fun activities and playing games. Addison was not just coming for fun. She was equipping Rainey with skills she needed for kindergarten.

Parent Educators through PAT programs go into homes and lead children in a variety of activities. Parents learn from these child development specialists on what they can do to equip their children with the necessary skills for kindergarten. Parent educators with Hannibal PAT work with more than 250 families a year.

PAT also provides group connections for youngsters to play and socialize while parents learn from each other.

“When I went to kindergarten, I went for half a day,” Rainey said. “For half of that half-day, I took a nap,” she said with a smile.

Now kindergarten students are expected to identify letters, understand rhyming words, write their names and more before they even begin school. For parents, that can be intimidating. However, parents can rely on Parents as Teachers programs to help them learn what they can do to get their child ready to succeed.

Rainey first got involved with the Parents as Teachers program as a child when Addison came to her house. Fifteen years ago, Rainey became involved on a different level. Addison was the director of the Hannibal PAT program, an agency of the United Way, and hired Rainey to join the Hannibal PAT team.

Rainey is now the coordinator for screening for Hannibal PAT and promotes the mission of the program, “all children will learn, grow and develop to realize their full potential.”

“I always knew I wanted to do early childhood stuff,” Rainey said.

Rainey performs more than 500 developmental screenings a year. These screenings evaluate children in terms of fine motor skills, concept development and language development. Families of children with needs in one or more of those areas are connected to resources that can assist with child development.

“I love to see where kids can go,” Rainey said. With the right supports, kids who have deficits detected early can fill their gaps and be ready to excel in kindergarten.

“The parent is the first and best teacher of a child,” said Whitney Holliday, Parents as Teachers (PAT) program director for the Hannibal Public School District. “Through Melissa’s extensive knowledge of early childhood and her passion for partnering with families, she is able to support the early development, learning and health of our youngest Pirates,” Holliday said.

Through her work with Hannibal PAT, Rainey lives out the motto of the United Way to Be the Change.

To learn more about the United Way visit http://unitedwaymta.org.