When it comes to education, it’s the people who matter more than the building or the materials. That’s why donations to PiE are used primarily to increase the number of caring adults that Palo Alto students interact with on a daily basis. The additional staff members funded by PiE in Palo Alto elementary schools lower the student-to-adult ratio both inside and outside of classrooms and increase social emotional support for students.
These PiE-funded caring adults also give students access to different types of adult role models and educational experiences. In the 12 PAUSD elementary schools, the range of staff funded by PiE includes art and music teachers, science specialists, counselors and classroom aides. Here are some examples of how these special adults are making a difference in Palo Alto elementary schools this year.
Walter Hays: Aides that support learning and build relationships
Thanks to donations from PiE, PAUSD elementary teachers have aides in their classrooms for an average of about six hours each week. These aides provide additional educational support for students ranging from one-on-one help to working with small groups. Aides also allow teachers to differentiate learning for students who need enrichment or extra help.
At Walter Hays, classroom aide Melanie Norall is working on her teaching credential and brings her strong educational experience into Jackie Hurd’s fourth grade classroom. As Ms. Hurd explains, Melanie’s presence is important to the students. “It is beneficial for children to be known by a wide variety of adults…and to know adults to whom they can go in times of trouble.”
El Carmelo: Counseling to teach empathy and provide social emotional support
Nadia Mayo, a school counselor made possible by PiE funding, is on site at El Carmelo two days a week to provide several different levels of support to students. She visits all classrooms to teach social skills through stories, currently focused on empathy, the theme for this year. She also provides group counseling for students in need of additional support and one-on-one counseling, with parent permission, when specific issues arise.
Nadia’s many touchstones in the school are essential for the emotional and academic growth of the students at El Carmelo. As Principal Chuck Merritt explained, “I’ve seen so many situations where the opportunity to meet with a counselor has made a profound difference in a child’s ability to enjoy peers, succeed in school, and enjoy life. I cannot imagine not having counseling support.”
Escondido: Bilingual aides and specialists help with language development
In the Spanish Immersion Program at Escondido, PiE funds bilingual subject instructors including reading specialists and Spectra Art teachers, along with bilingual classroom aides. Reading specialists are key to helping students learn to read in both Spanish and English, and instructional aides help develop skills in the two languages. In addition, Spectra Art teachers, such as Alejandra Hermandinger, provide art lessons in Spanish every week in all classrooms in the Spanish Immersion Program.
These additional bilingual instructors are role models for Escondido’s Spanish Immersion students about the importance of communicating in a language other than English. As Principal Danae Reynolds explains, these PiE-funded educators demonstrate to students that “adults use Spanish in their work life, which is helpful to showing them that it will be a powerful tool for their lives as well.”