Sandy Grade teachers help give students head start
Sandy Grade School teacher Hali Vollans initially intended to use her bachelor's degree in psychology in a career in social work. But after openings for Head Start teachers kept "popping up," she couldn't ignore the calling, so she applied. That was 14 years ago.
In 2010, the Tigard native moved to Sandy and started at Sandy Grade. Teaching Head Start was a pleasant surprise. She got to spend more one-on-one time with children than she would as a social worker, and found she could still have the same if not a greater influence on people as a teacher.
"I just love seeing the impact we can have on the whole family," Vollans noted. "We try to connect families as much as we can with the community resources."
At Head Start, Vollans and her colleague Michele Chung provide more than just an academic atmosphere for toddlers from low-income families. Many of the students are not only learning to read, but also learning English.
The Clackamas Education Service District provides funds to further classes like Vollans' and Chung's, and the teachers direct families to local nonprofit groups like the Sandy Community Action Center.
They serve them a hot meal a day and also teach them a daily hygiene regimen by providing toothbrushes and setting aside time for the students to brush their teeth after their meal.
"The goal of Head Start is to give them those entry skills," Chung explained. "We need to be that stabilizing force for our kids."
Now in her second year at Sandy Grade, Chung has worked as a teacher for 17 years. She's working on obtaining a reading endorsement and her master's degree to add to her bachelor's degree in music from Azusa Pacific University in California.
"I love working with kids and I decided this was the best way, "Chung said. "At this age it's especially fun. They love to learn. It's definitely (rewarding) to see them grow and their eyes light up when they make that connection. It's exciting to see what they're capable of."