As kids head back to the classroom, several children aren’t old enough for school. That’s where Parents as Teachers (PAT) comes in. We spoke to the and (HSD) to get insight and information on their PAT programs, which was first piloted in the state of Missouri more than 30 years ago. Below is information on HSD's program.
The past few years have brought a number of changes to the Hazelwood School District’s Parent as Teachers (PAT) program, but the focus and priorities remain the same in the district.
“Parents are children’s first and most important teacher,” said Carrie Holt, Parents as Teacher Coordinator and Hazelwood East Early Childhood Education Center coordinator.
PAT focuses on empowering parents to be educators and sets a foundation for education. The program was founded in 1981 Missouri through the Ferguson-Florissant School District and since has grown worldwide.
The program works with parents of children--from prenatal to 5 years of age--to have early intervention and high involvement in their children in those early years.
The Hazelwood School District’s program, which began in 1984, focuses on assisting “high-need” children and families throughout the district. Holt describes high-need as premature, low birth weight or dependent on parents’ socioeconomic level or education level.
The district currently serves approximately 600 families throughout the district.
All children have a development screening that tests motor skills, language skills, vision/hearing and cognitive skills as a part of the program. Once screened, the results show areas that the children are not exposed to, and the parent educator can then identify the area of need for the family and child.
Holt describes these workers as one of the biggest resources to the program.
“Parent educators are key. That’s the first contact with the Hazelwood School District,” she said. “They set the tone for how the relationship can happen in the district.”
For those children and families identified as on target and hitting their milestones, they may not receive a parent educator, but they do receive the opportunity to participate in a number of activities throughout the year, such as the Boo and Do, the Holiday Fun event and the Scholastic Book Fair, where they can interact with other families and parents.
Holt and Curtis Gunn, the Hazelwood Central Early Childhood Education site coordinator each said that the program had undergone a number of changes in recent years including, the reduction of 14 full-time staff to nine part-time staff a few years ago due to budget cuts.
Last year, they underwent another series of budget cuts that forced them to reduce activities for the 3-5 age group.
Despite the shortfalls, Holt, who took over the program recently, has high hopes for what the program can do and bringing more families into the fold in the coming year.
“There’s so much further we can take it,” she said. “I’m excited about that.”
The program is open to everyone in the Hazelwood School District area. For more information on the program, call 314-953-7600.