Parents as Teachers prepares kids for school

Whitney Holliday, Parents as Teachers director for Hannibal Public Schools, works one on one with a child whose family participates in the Parents as Teachers program working on coloring and cutting skills which are crucial for fine motor development.

HANNIBAL — Getting Hannibal’s youngest pirates ready for school is the goal of the Hannibal Public School’s Parents as Teachers program.

Hannibal’s Parents as Teachers, PAT, relies on funding from the United Way of the Mark Twain Area to help ensure the volunteers are able to provide additional services to families in need.

PAT is a nationwide program that was born in the state of Missouri. Each school district in Missouri has a PAT program. The program equips parents, who are a child’s first and most important teachers, with the skills they need to effectively parent their children.

“Parents as Teachers is an amazing program. It is a gift, a true gift,” said Whitney Holliday, the Parents as Teachers director for Hannibal Public Schools. “I was a Parents as Teachers family. Both my boys went through Parents as Teachers. I had an awesome relationship with my Parents as Teachers Educator. I knew I could call them, e-mail them, text them if I had a question because there isn’t really a rule book or guidebook for being a parent and we all have questions.”

Through Parents as Teachers, families are assigned a Parent Educator who comes into the home and visits with families about their children. The Parent Educator becomes an extension of the family and a relied upon source for knowledge and comfort through the parenting process.

Parent Educators can start meeting with expectant mothers and can continue meeting with families until children enter kindergarten.

During home visits, parent educators come into the home and provide an age-appropriate activity for parents to do with their children. They provide development and milestone information, look at what milestones a child has achieved, and provide information on various parenting topics such as sleep, toilet learning, nutrition, and more.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a funding formula for Parents as Teachers and has a cap on the number of visits a family can have with a Parent Educator. At times, to equip families with the skills they need to best help their children, additional home visits are needed. Dollars from United Way are used to cover these home visits.

“Parent As Teachers meets the challenge of reaching children and families early in life to teach them the skills needed to succeed in school. All-too-often, children in economically challenged families fall through the cracks. Teacher parents can help guide children and parents,” said Forrest Gossett, editor of the Salt River Journal and chairman of the 2020-21 United Way Be A Hero campaign. “Donor dollars are well-invested with Parents As Teachers.”

In addition to home visits, Parents as Teachers offers group connections where families can interact together.

“In a non-COVID setting, those are really looked forward to times where we can have large groups of people together and kids and parents can interact,” Holliday said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these group connections have taken place via Facebook Live or in smaller groups where social distancing can be maintained.

“With COVID we have had to think outside the box with how that looks, but we’re definitely doing that,” Holiday said.

The work the Parents as Teachers does helps parents know they are doing what they need to do to help their child get the best start to life. There are no income guidelines to participate in Parents as Teachers. Families interested in learning more are encouraged to call the Hannibal Early Childhood Center at 573-221-3054, e-mail Holliday at wholliday@hannibal60.com, or follow the organization on Facebook.

To make a financial contribution to the United Way to ensure this organization and others have the financial resources they need to make their missions come to life, individuals are encouraged to send contributions to PO Box 81 Hannibal, Mo 63401, give online at http://unitedwaymta.org, or text “UWMTA” to 26989 for a prompt to give.

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