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Westminster College Student Teachers Conduct Family-Teacher Literacy Conversations

Monday, July 1, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Three Westminster College early childhood/special education majors, who graduated in May, participated in three Bridges to Reading parent-teacher discussions at Campbell Elementary School in Ohio during the Spring 2013 semester.

Bridges to Reading is a home-school partnership that creates opportunities for pre-service teachers to listen and learn from children's first learning partners, namely parents. The one-hour conversations with parents help the pre-service teachers understand how children's family members can become the teacher's essential partner in the teaching of the child.

"I learned I should not leave parents out of their child's education since they have vital information about their child and how to help them learn," said Jessica Cromer. Cromer is a daughter of Douglas and Kathleen Cromer of Oakdale and a graduate of Chartiers Valley High School.

"I now know the value of taking a look at teaching from a family lens," said Caitlin Fleckenstein. Fleckenstein is a daughter of Kim Fleckenstein of Carnegie and a graduate of Chartiers Valley High School.

Morgan McNeal said, "I have learned you can never fully understand a child until you meet at least one family member." McNeal is a daughter of Randy and Terry McNeal and a graduate of Athens Area High School.

The program was created by Dr. Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, professor of education, with assistance from five Campbell Elementary School teachers: Vicki Tekac `00, Lisa Jackson `01, Nick Glatzer, Roxanne Tracey and Maria Koulianos.

Klassen Endrizzi said, "New teachers feel vulnerable in many arenas, but facing children's families evokes unnecessary levels of anxiety.  Before our pre-service teachers enter their own classrooms, they need to participate in practical collaborations in order to understand how families can become teachers' essential partners." 

Klassen Endrizzi's 18 early childhood education pre-service teachers enrolled in her Literacy Methods course also participated in the program by creating family interactive newsletters after each session, writing participant observation notes, and babysitting younger siblings during the conversations. 

Westminster College's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning provided funding to purchase over 100 children's books written in English and Spanish, which were donated to the 11 family participants.

Klassen Endrizzi, who serves as Westminster's faculty development officer, joined the faculty in 1993.  She earned undergraduate and master's degrees from Fresno Pacific College and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.  She is the author of Becoming Teammates: Teachers and Families as Literacy Partners (NCTE, 2008).

Contact Klassen Endrizzi at (724) 946-7189 or email for more information. 

Westminster student teachers and professor at Campbell Elementary School. (l-r): Morgan McNeal, Jessica Cromer, Dr. Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, and Caitlin Fleckenstein.
Westminster College students and Campbell Elementary School teachers participated in Bridges to Reading.