The FUNd Stuff at PNA!
"Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent."
- Bob Keeshand
Parents are a cornerstone of the foundation of successful independent schools.
Hold up, what?
Everyone knows that teachers and curriculum are the cornerstone of the foundation of successful independent schools, right? Well, those are cornerstones of the foundation of a successful school program, but without parents making the choice to fund their child's education personally and out of pocket, independent schools wouldn't exist, making them foundational to our success.
As a successful independent school, we are well aware and deeply appreciative of the
parent-school relationship that begins the moment parents peruse the website or pick up the phone to inquire about admission. Often those first communications are focused on the particulars of the program at our school, but we know that they are also the beginning of the relationship that will ultimately define student success at PNA.
Best practices from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) state (and we paraphrase) that in order for schools to create and sustain effective partnerships, we all have to focus on the following:
Open communication is key. It's imperative that parents and schools recognize that effective partnerships are characterized by clearly defined responsibilities, a shared commitment to collaboration, open lines of communication, mutual respect, and a common vision of the goals to be reached.
The school has to be a good fit for the student and the family. In selecting an independent school, parents should seek an optimal match for the needs of the student, their own expectations, and the philosophy and programs of the school, including any religious, cultural, medical, or personal information that the school may need to serve the student best. On the flip side, schools are responsible for fully presenting their philosophy, program, and practices to parents during the admission process and encouraging conversation that clarifies parental expectations and aspirations for the student.
Know each other. Schools should know and value parent perspectives on their children. Like wise, parents should know and value the school's perspective on their students. Parents need to be familiar and support the schools policies and procedures, and the school will keep parents well informed through systematic reports, conferences, publications, and informal conversations.
Form a bona fide partnership, and each party upholds their responsibilities. Parents are responsible for providing a home environment that supports the development of positive learning attitudes and habits, and schools should be committed to providing a safe, caring environment for their students. The school suggests effective ways for parents to support the educational process.
Talk, talk, talk! Teachers and administrators should work to be accessible to parents and model candid and open dialogue, and parents need to commit to involving themselves in the life of the school. When concerns arise, parents need to seek information directly from the school, consulting with those best able to address the concerns. In turn, the school offers and supports a variety of parent education opportunities, and defines clearly how it involves parents when considering major decisions that affect the school community.
As you read through these, keep in mind they are best practices - meaning they are what both sides of the relationship should aspire to. At PNA we've put thought into how, and how often, we reach out to our parents. We aim for that perfect mix of often enough that everyone feels informed but no too often, because we know our parents are as busy as we are and respecting time (and inbox space!) is important.
PNA works hard to foster a feeling of inclusion for parents. Studies show that students achieve more when their parents are involved in school. Do we expect that parents need to be at PNA all the time for everything? No, of course not, but the door is open (after ringing the doorbell, of course!) and we have many opportunities for involvement, strengthening that parent/student bond outside the classroom, too!
Our teachers value the partnership with their parents and prioritize communications through weekly blogs, individual conversations in-person and through email, and at parent-teacher conferences. The conferences build on the relationship established at the in-take conference in August and teachers encourage parents, in addition to the academic conversation, to talk about their students' social/emotional development.
Here, Debbie Shiabu, executive director of the Association of Private Schools; Anne Davis, education contributor for the parenting blog We Know Stuff; and Justin Baeder, director of The Principal Center, provide expert advice on effective questions to ask when sitting down with classroom teachers:
May I Tell You About My Child? No one knows your child better than you do, so it's your job to help your child's teacher learn more. Shiabu encourages parents to "Provide your child's teacher with more information on what motivates your child, likes and dislikes, special skills, strengths and weaknesses."
May I Tell You About What's Going on at Home? Situations like illness, divorce or a new baby may affect your child's school experience, so inform your child's teacher of such circumstances.
How Is My Child Doing Socially? According to Davis, "How the child functions socially in the class" is a topic that should be addressed at a conference, so inquire about your child's peer relations.
How Is My Child Doing Emotionally? It's also important to ask about your child's emotional health at school. For example, is your child generally happy?
In What Areas Does My Child Need Improvement? Your child's teacher sees him from a different perspective than you do. Ask the teacher what personal weaknesses your child needs to work on, and listen to the response with an open mind.
What Do You Think My Child Is Particularly Good at? Find out about the good stuff, too. Ask about "personal strengths that will extend beyond school," encourages Baeder.
We have seen first hand the positive effects and the lasting relationships of family engagement and student success at PNA. We encourage all parents, regardless of where their kids go to school, to take an active role in their child's education. Great schools are made great by the people invested, and in the end the students reap the greatest benefit!
Postcards from the Classroom
There have been a plethora of parents and pumpkins in PNA this month!
Click on any photo to jump into the slideshow!
Parent Lunches - 7th/8th Grade News
by Sarah Mariner and Martina Henke | 7th/8th Grade Teaching Team
Parent Lunches are a great way for students to share their learning with parents. Sometimes, the activities showcase the end results of what students have been learning,. Other times parents are thrown into the learning process itself and still other lunches are simply about engaging with class family members in a social setting. Of course, we would be remiss if we did not mention the amazing foods families bring to share with the group. This is always the highlight for our tastebuds and provides for the exchange of new recipes. If you came to the 7/8 Parent Lunch on Thursday, you might have experienced a little of everything.
Thursday’s Parent Lunch helped to set the stage for learning about genetics in a fun, social, creative way that parents could participate. Students have just begun to learn about genetics. One way to help them understand complex processes such as meiosis and how the controlling factors of a trait (genes) combine is to have them create “pets” with known allele sets (different forms of the genes) and mate them with other “pets”. So, with a short burst of creativity and a few specific directions, students and parents created attractive “pets” that will be used to help them understand the probabilities of future genetic combinations. Stay tuned, parents, to see which pet thought yours was attractive enough to be its mate...!
Students are also currently learning about the Central American and Caribbean Regions, so parents brought in foods from these areas to share for the lunch as well. There were plenty of frijoles y arroz, quesadillas, ensalada de aguacate y mango, horchata, platanos fritos, fruta, salchichas, etc. Many of these foods came with well known, and not-so-well-known, histories. Do you know the history of the Panamanian hot dog??
These events take a lot of shared work and contributions from everyone to put on. It warmed our hearts to see five students shoot their hands in the air when volunteers were needed to wash the dishes! Down in the Kitchen, these students quickly organized themselves into the most efficient and productive work force anyone could hope for! We are grateful and truly appreciate the “all in” community involvement from families at PNA. Parent Lunches reiterate this significance and it resonates in the success of our students!
Geography with Parents - 3rd Grade News
Sheryll Orbase | 3rd Grade Teacher
According to National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools, when parents are involved in their children's education, children succeed at higher rates. Students perform better and are more likely to graduate and continue onto college.
At PNA, parent involvement is encouraged, valued, and appreciated. The school would not be where it is now without the support of PNA parents. One of the opportunities for parents to be involved is through Parent Lunch. It is a time when parents or guardians join the class and experience their child's learning environment.
In third grade, parents and guardians joined the class launch of their Geography unit, having Parent Snack as an entry event. PNA does not have a set textbook for social studies so teachers use a variety of resources. A teaching kit was borrowed from Public Lands to teach the kids about Alaska. The kit was opened in class and we discovered that it is somewhat outdated and missing some things. This is a real world problem that calls for a PBL project with the driving question: "What can we, as geographers, add to Public Land's Great Alaskan kit to teach other classrooms about Alaskan regions?"
In order to answer the driving question, what are the things students need to learn? One of the students answered, "Maps!" So the third graders together with their parents or guardians used their map skills for an "Alaskan Map Quest". They answered questions together that helped the students explore the Alaskan map.
After the class activity, parents, guardians, and students enjoyed a scrumptious snack together. Parent Snack provides parents an opportunity to experience how it is to be a third grader and at the same time it gives students a sense of security to know that their parents and the school are a team working together to support them all the way. And what do parents think?
"Instead of the kids preparing a presentation for us, we joined them in class as they started their geography unit. We worked on a collaborative assignment using maps and printed materials about Alaska to answer questions about the state. It was fun to see all our kids engaged and confidently hunting for information, problem-solving with parents and peers, and thinking about geography in a very hands-on, real-world way. Also, there were cookies."
- Cheryl M., PNA 3rd Grade Parent
Like What You See?
3rd Grade Takes Arcade Games to Kids' Kitchen
How did you learn about forces when you were in elementary school? At PNA, third grade students were expected to show what they know about forces and interaction by creating their own arcade game.
Since PBL takes learning to a whole new level, students took their learning beyond the classroom. Students created games for parents, other students, other teachers, and for kids at an organization called Kids' Kitchen to play. Presenting student learning through a public display is an important aspect to Project Based Learning because it adds to the authenticity of the learning experience.
Third Grade learns about Kid's Kitchen from "Grandpa" Elgin Jones, Founder of Kid's Kitchen in Anchorage, Alaska. To learn more about this organization and the work they do in the community, visit kidskitchenak.com
After dinner, kids at Kids' Kitchen had so much fun playing the arcade games! The third graders didn't want to leave. According to BIE, there’s one final benefit to having a public product: the proud moment when students present their work to the “real world” is often a memory they will keep for the rest of their lives.
"I honestly didn't know what to expect but I was impressed with the organization of the meal preparation and the friendliness of Elgin and the Rec Center staff. Elgin has a genuine love and passion for all children. My heart was overjoyed when I witnessed the kids equally as excited about playing the arcade games as our kids were to create and share them. When it comes down to it, they share the common bond of being curious kids who love creativity, friendship, fun, & learning." - Rachel B., PNA Parent
Students from West High's Key Club helped prepare and serve dinner at Kid's Kitchen, and they also enjoyed playing arcade games with the kids after dinner was over.
You Can Support It!
Your gift benefits today's students and everyone's future. Spread the word,
and don't let PNA be Anchorage's best kept secret. Let your friends know!
To make a donation or refer a family to PNA, Call (907) 333-1080 and speak
with Jennie Tschappat, Director of Admissions and Communications.
Coming Right Up
FUNdraising with H3!
Friday, October 20
Dance party featuring the musical stylings of H3 and your chance to win a trip to Australia or $5,000 cash! Buffet dinner, dancing, games, and tons of fun!
This is a 21+ event. Purchase your tickets online now!
Coffee & Chat with the Head
Thursdays, October 5 and 19
8:15 am to 8:45am
Wednesday, October 25
3:30 pm to 7 pm
Thursday, October 26
Professional Development Day
Friday, October 27 - NO SCHOOL
Tuesday, October 31
For a full listing of events, please visit
the Calendar page on our website!
Dear Family and Friends of PNA,
One of the reasons I worked hard to make PNA an option for my children each year was the relationships I had with the people who work here. When I became a person who worked here myself, I didn't forget the importance of having a positive relationship with our families.
PNA is dependent on parent choice and we strive to keep those relationships at the top of our minds when interacting with our families. From the teachers who spend everyday with students and parents to the facilities staff who you might not often see but work at keeping our building safe and functional, we work with our best efforts to provide an engaging, educational, and safe place for students to spend their day.
As a mom, I knew teachers knew my daughters. They knew them, they knew our family's story, they knew of Madeline's diabetes, and they didn't forget. From year to year, from class to class, they made the effort to help my kids be their best selves as students and as friends.
The other parents made a point to know me, too. Volunteering at school became a part of our family's activities, not because PNA expected us to, but because I wanted to. Other parents became friends, teachers became friends, and the relationship we had with them became stronger. It was easier to have that difficult conversation about a certain middle schooler's undesirable behavior when I knew the teacher and she knew me, and that the previous week she had been telling me about the great leadership that same middle schooler had shown on a class field trip. Good communication allowed me to know my kids, to know their teachers, and to know that in the end we all wanted the same thing - to raise good people!
Director of Communications
Just One More...
Throw The Garbage Out Of The Yard! It's like dodgeball... but not exactly. The goal is to get all the balls on the other team's side, but without hitting anyone. The PNA Gym is all ready for that first snow now…because these kids are really good at this game and all that garbage is OUTTA THE YARD!
Who's Behind this FUNd Stuff madness, anyway? The FUNd Stuff Editorial Staff
is Kathy Heinlein and Jennie Tschappat. Contributing articles this month from PNA's 7th/8th and 3rd grade blogs. You can find all the blogs here each week.
The FUNd Stuff is a bi-monthly (or so) publication from the staff, students, parents, and teachers of PNA.
Want to know more about anything we've highlighted here?
Get in touch! (907) 333-1080 or firstname.lastname@example.org