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Elementary Education Majors and Adviser Presented Research at Literacy Conference

Posted on Monday, March 26, 2012

Westminster College senior elementary education majors Shanay Phillian and Jessie Szakacs and Dr. Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster professor of education, presented "From Strangers to Allies: Building Family-School Connections" at the Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts conference March 9-10 in Worthington, Ohio.

The research study explores the relationships between families and schools and the impact families have on their children's education.  Phillian and Szakacs are incorporating what they learned from their project in their student teaching at Campbell (Ohio) Elementary School, with the goal of more family involvement to strengthen the relationship with teachers.

"We are sending out newsletters and surveys and having the students write family message journals in an attempt to build open, beneficial relationships with the families of the students in our classrooms," Szakacs said.  "Through this project, we are gaining a firsthand perspective on the hardships many families face and how, as educators, we can best work with families to further their child's education."

"We believe this will provide families and educators with valuable insights that will play an integral role in providing the best possible education for the students," Phillian said.  "I now realize that teaching goes beyond teaching the curriculum.  It involves investing countless hours to ensure success for all students, as well as creating a partnership with their families." 

"Our intent focused on utilizing family insights in order to make more informed decisions throughout the school day," Klassen Endrizzi explained.  "Jessie and Shanay moved beyond a typical deficit model of family-school partnerships by viewing their Greek, African American, Hispanic, Italian, Irish, and Slovak families as rich resources and essential collaborators.  We discovered how children become more successful learners when teachers reached out to their families.   Their two Campbell Elementary cooperating teachers, Vicki Tekac and Annette Tovarnak, were a sustaining force throughout this exploration."

Phillian is a daughter of Mark and Kimberly Phillian of New Castle and a graduate of Wilmington Area High School.

Szakacs is a daughter of Michael and Wendy Szakacs of Youngstown, Ohio, and a graduate of Liberty High School.

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 additional information about the project. 

The students received undergraduate research grants and travel/presentation grants from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning.

The Drinko Center for Experiential Learning was created to enrich undergraduate education at Westminster through advancing world-class teaching as well as by participating in collaborations that address community and regional needs including strengthening K-12 education.  The Undergraduate Research Initiative provides funding for students to conduct research and to present their research at regional and national conferences.  Visit the Drinko website for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.

(L-r) Jessie Szakacs, Shanay Phillian, author Roland Smith, Dr. Charlene Klassen Endrizzi