Mill Creek Middle School principal and staff take a personal approach to learning

Guadalupe Martinez struggled in school until her principal and eighth-grade teacher visited her home.

Guadalupe Martinez struggled in school until her principal and eighth-grade teacher visited her home.

“It changed me,” Martinez said. “I felt bad that at school I didn’t do well. It made me want to do better.”

Mill Creek Middle School Principal Antonio Morales started “home visits,” talking to students and parents at their places earlier this summer. The point of the visits are to get parents involved in their child’s education and discuss available learning opportunities at school, Morales said.

“I want the students to feel they are important to me,” Morales said. “I want the parents to know I care about their child and want them to succeed.”

Last month, several teachers joined Morales in home visits. The Mill Creek staff goes out to homes about twice a month on the weekends to sit down with parents and students.

“I think it is very beneficial to do this because the kids get to see us outside of the classroom and that effort to talk with them shows we care and won’t give up on them,” said Kami Terris, special education teacher. “We want to open up the communication between parents and teachers so the kids can succeed.”

Morales believes if parents are following their child’s grades and classroom progress, the child will do better in school.

“If the parents know what their child is studying and how well they are doing, they will be able to help them with homework and encourage them the right way,” Morales said.

David Sanchez was skeptical when Morales knocked on his door.

“It was scary,” said Sanchez, a seventh-grade student. “But it was good. I was so glad Mr. Morales was talking about all the school information to me because I had forgotten most of it from the first week.”

Morales wants the home visits to inspire parents to volunteer at school.

“I want to connect with our parents and show them what they can do to participate in our school, because we need their support,” he said. “The school belongs to the public; it’s not mine. So I want the parents and children to let us know what they need in order to learn.”

In addition to student performance, Morales and teachers talk to parents and students about school statistics, clubs and other opportunities available at the school.

“We just started Saturday tutoring sessions, before school physical education opportunities and we’ve issues laptops to all ours students,” Morales said. “It’s importune for parents to be aware of our new programs and learn how to help their child use their laptops.”

Mill Creek is the largest middle school in the Kent School District. They have around 900 students, 40 countries and 32 languages represented.

“It’s great that I can speak Spanish because then I can communicate with our families who speak Spanish as their first language,” Morales said. “It shows I can relate to them and I am able to explain what is going on at school.”

The school started math, reading and writing tutoring sessions on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, with recreational opportunities in the gymnasium from noon to 1:30 p.m. A robotics program, community service club and college bound scholarship opportunities were also added to the school this year.

“It’s great to be able to sit down with parents and students to explain these new programs and experiences we offer at Mill Creek,” Terris said. “They might hear about something going on or a club opening up, but they won’t try to get involved if they don’t know what it is.”

Math teacher Katherine Torres is surprised at the positive changes she’s seen in her students after the visits, both behaviorally and academically.

“You get a sense that the kids just feel in control of their futures, because we are talking to them about what their ambitions are,” Torres said. “Our goal is to give them the mindset that they are working toward their futures.”

Torres noticed the kids she’d visited during a weekend in October come in the next week early to get caught up in class.

“It was great because they wanted to learn and were asking me about Saturday school,” Torres said.”Staff at Mill Creek really want to get back to the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. We want the education of our students to be a community effort so we can help each other raise our kids to be the best they can be.”



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