Bernheim teachers hit road to make special in-home visit to their parents

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Back to School

By Stephen Thomas

CLERMONT -- If you were a student, what would you do with a teacher standing on your front porch?

Bernheim Middle School teachers were knocking on doors, only to let students know there was nothing to fear.

Taking an idea from a successful program in Mason County, Bernheim implemented a home visitation program prior to the first day of classes.

Administrators, teachers and counselors traveled in pairs to the homes of every registered Bernheim student.

Assistant principal Misty Mills said the initial reason for the visits was letting each student know they were welcome at the school, easing first-day jitters and beginning the year on a positive note.

“When students see that teachers care, they make a bigger effort,” Mills said.

Each pair of administrators and instructors received a list of about 30 students based loosely on bus routes. Teachers were paired based on experience, with newer staff and veterans paired up.

Bernheim art instructor Kim Newton and new speech and drama teacher Patrick Swencki toured homes in the Happy Hollow area. They said the visits were very positive.

Newton and Swencki visited the home of seventh grader Ana Ocasio, who discussed an interest in drama when she learned who Swencki was.

“It was a little bit of an uh-oh,” Ana said upon seeing teachers at the door. “I was more or less surprised.”

“Our intention is not to surprise anyone,” Newton said. “We’re happy to just visit on the front porch.”

Newton and Swencki found parents very responsive and students enjoying the time to meet with the teachers.

“It’s been really fun to learn students’ interests before they enter the classrooms,” Newton said.

Ana’s mother, Penny Ocasio, was “very shocked” when the teachers first arrived, but she was also happy that the visit was pleasant.

“Usually you never meet the teachers unless there’s problems,” Penny said.

“Parents have been very responsive,” said Newton. “This shows them we care about their students.”

Bullitt County Public Schools superintendent Keith Davis said the home visitation program was part of a customer service push toward a better overall school year. He was pleasantly surprised with Bernheim’s initial success.

“(The program) was not required this year but (Bernheim) stepped up,” said Davis. “It’s important because that first positive contact is crucial. I would imagine you’ll see more and more of this.”

Davis added that the program helped to show the schools’ focus on serving the local community.

Mills said initial home visits would be documented and likely followed up with future phone calls or emails in coming weeks.

“We’ll try to check in just to make sure all is well,” she said.

Mills mentioned a bonus for Bernheim was the team building that took place between administrators and teachers, especially for the newcomers.

“That’s a piece of the program you wouldn’t even think about,” she said. “It’s really drawn a lot of our staff closer together.”