Kim Williams is one of two Parent Involvement Educators at Phalen
Leadership Academy, an IPS innovation school on the city’s east side.
It’s a job that she calls a “blessing.”
three, reflects on her job, the work she does with students and their parents
and how she wants to get more involved with the families that the school
I will be
starting my second year at Phalen once school starts back in August.
do before Phalen?
Phalen, I was at Fall Creek Academy as the director of Student Services. Prior
to that, I was at IPS’ Manual High School for five years, where I was a behavior
interventionist and graduation coach. This year, I wanted to take a step back
to spend more time with my children; I wanted to do more at home.
I have a bachelor’s
degree in Physical Education and Sports Medicine. I was an athletic trainer for
a few years at Ridgeview High School in Bakersfield, Calif.; I always loved
counseling and working with student athletes. I was always the trainer saying “What
do your grades look like?” as I’m stretching you — always motivating them and
things like that. I love sports, but I ended up getting my teaching license.
of community engagement in California for Kern High School District at
Bakersfield High School before we moved here. I was the community engagement
and graduation coach out in California for three years. I took my group of
students from freshman year to senior year, and I had almost 100 percent of
them graduating. I came here and applied for the position of graduation coach at
another school and it all came together. I got my teaching license — my masters
in teaching from Marian University. I love high school. I love the kids. This
is my first year in elementary, but it’s not that different because I’m working
with parents and a lot of them are young parents, so I’m doing a lot of the
same services like mentoring.
what are your responsibilities?
I book all
transportation. If there are issues with a bus, I call down to transportation
to figure out what’s going on. I schedule field trips and early dismissals.
charge of bringing in outside agencies and community partners that come in to
help with programming for families and kids. I do some behavior intervention,
because I have a background in that — some conflict mediations. I have a
certificate in conflict mediations. I work with a social worker; I do home
visits and go out into the community. I do a lot of community engagement.
help students and the school as a whole?
We have a
lot of scholars that show signs of big stressors in their lives – possibly Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), though it hasn’t been officially diagnosed.
Coming in, we had to learn how to work with those kids and talk them through
it. How to disengage them versus engage them and making sure they’re not riled
up in certain situations. That’s something that everyone at the school had to
do with guidance from professionals like the team at Peace Learning Center.
dealing with those intense situations?
the moment is getting the child to stay calm and to let them know we’re there
to support them. We aim for them to walk out on their own in that moment instead
of continuing to keep screaming or expressing anger.
that might surprise people?
If I notice a
student is wearing the same shirt for a few days, I will give them a shirt and
take theirs to wash it. At the end of the day they will give me mine back so
they will have it fresh and clean for the next few days. I’ve also talked to
parents and asked “What’s going on with the washer and dryer, were you able to
get to the laundromat this week?” They’ll tell you “I wasn’t able to get there.”
I’ll tell them to put a couple of uniforms in their (child’s) backpack and drop
the backpack off in the morning. The kid leaves the backpack with me, and by
the end of the day, I make sure everything is clean. (Williams has a washer and
dryer in her office.)
apartment complexes don’t have a washer/dryer hookup, so if they don’t have a
laundromat facility on the apartment property then it’s up to them to get to a
laundromat. Many of them don’t have transportation to get to a laundromat, so
that’s a barrier. It’s also a barrier if they don’t have the money to spend at
the laundromat. I try to help any way I can.
support also builds positive relationships with the families. When I have to
call to explain their child is doing a disruptive thing, they know I’m not
lying to them. They can trust it.
My goal is
to do more and engage more. The last year, I set the groundwork. Our parents
know if they have an issue or question, the first thing they say is, “Can I
speak to my advocate?” That is huge. I have my core, small group of parents.
Now I want to get more involved.
blessing that this school invests in the family by having two of us (PIEs). It
shows that our families are an important piece. It makes me feel amazing. It’s
why I wake up in the morning and do what I do. It’s why I pray on the way to
school and pray on the way home. It’s because some of the things they’re going
through are heavy. It makes me proud to know they have someone they can trust.
saying is valued. We’re at the table, and we’re able to do more for our kids.
In some schools, PIEs are brushed off and sometimes told to simply do what’s
required for Title funding. Here, we’re in every principal meeting and every
teacher meeting. We’re included, and our voices are heard and respected. A lot
of times, we’re able to sway the vote and turn a situation into a positive for
our families. If we were never brought
to the table, then things can get missed and our families would ultimately be
the ones who are not helped.