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It's American Education Week in Oregon

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The folks who drive the buses and others who are part of children's school days are the focus of American Education Week. Credit: Lynette/morguefile.com
The folks who drive the buses and others who are part of children's school days are the focus of American Education Week. Credit: Lynette/morguefile.com
November 16, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - Schools are in the spotlight for American Education Week, which begins today.

Each day puts the focus on people who help make the public school experience a good one for students. Tuesday is Parents Day, a reminder that family involvement is needed to make a great school.

Portland's Creston School, which includes kindergarten through eighth grade, recently got a National PTA award for "building effective family-school partnerships." Kate McCartney, a fourth-grade teacher there, said an active PTA has made all the difference.

"Parents have really helped the school come alive, with functions outside of the school day," she said, "events that draw families in so that kids are able to access school, not just as a place where they go to learn reading, writing and math but really as a community hub."

McCartney said the neighborhood isn't high-income, and Creston families speak more than a dozen native languages at home. She said creating a welcoming atmosphere has made for better communication between parents, teachers and kids.

Other days this week honor substitute educators. In some communities, guests will visit schools as "Educators for a Day."

Wednesday is Education Support Professionals Day, highlighting the contributions of janitorial and food-service workers, bus drivers and classroom aides. Helen Jacobs, who has driven a school bus in Albany for 20 years, said these staff members' interactions with kids can color a student's experience.

"Sometimes, those kids are the ones that are in trouble, or they're sad, or they don't talk to anybody else," she said. "Your attitude, how you've treated them, what you've said to that student, might be the thing that changes their entire life."

Jacobs organizes a massive winter coat drive for kids through the Greater Albany Association of Classified Employees. This month, more than 500 coats were distributed.

American Education Week has been celebrated annually since 1921. This year's theme is "Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility." More information about the week is online at nea.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR