February 16, 2017—Highlands Elementary School parent Silvestre Torres recently read a personal letter to Renton School Board members about how his school’s teachers and staff helped his son, and his family, overcome anxiety and fear, and eventually become engaged in the American education system.
Mr. Torres spoke about how just a few short years ago, when his son first entered kindergarten, he agonized that his son would face a barrier to getting a good education because of his inability to fluently understand and speak English. Part of that anxiety lie in the fact that he, as a father, was unable to help his son because he faced the same barrier.
Mr. Torres then spoke of his joy and appreciation about the work by Highlands Elementary School’s staff, along with the district, to create a program to educate and encourage non-English speaking families to become more engaged in their children's education. The program, Renton Parent University, works to instruct parents on how to communicate with teachers, to advocate for their children, and even to provide English-language lessons.
Through this work, and with the guidance and friendship of Highlands Principal Alfred DeBlasio, Mr. Torres said that he and his family—along with many other families learning English as a second language—are now thriving at the school and are more involved and engaged in the school day, more prepared to help their children with homework, and ready to be an education advocate and provider for their children.
Principal DeBlasio said that his staff believe in every child’s ability to learn, and work hard to remove barriers to that learning. “Family engagement is not an add-on for us at Highlands Elementary,” said Principal DeBalsio, “it's a fundamental element of our school climate.”