AUBURN — Owen Vincecruz, 4, wore his new school clothes Thursday when his preschool teacher knocked on his door.
As teacher Linda Fisher chatted with Owen and his mother, Deanna Vincecruz, Owen held up his foot, showing off his new black shoes.
“Those are nice,” his teacher said.
For the second year, Auburn preschool teachers made house calls during the week before preschool classes began. Those classes start Tuesday.
This year there are 150 preschool students in Auburn. Teachers made home visits to all but 15.
“Not every parent is comfortable with that,” said Linda Leiva, consulting teacher for early childhood for the Auburn School Department.
The goal of the home visits is to reduce anxiety of the child and parents about starting school, and for teachers to get to know their students and families.
“Parents are the experts on their child,” Leiva said. “Building that bridge of home to school is the foundation to a child's start in school. It cements the fact that the parents and teachers are on the same page, wanting what's best for that child.”
In private preschool or day care, there is a parental connection every day when the parent drops off and picks up their child, but public schools “don't have that luxury,” Leiva said. “We provide transportation.”
The home visit idea stems from professional development in which experts said the first step to a successful education was developing strong relationships between teachers, children and their families, Leiva said.
“We want an environment where every child feels good about coming to school. We started talking about how to do that.” They agreed home visits, which Head Start already does, would be beneficial. “Our teachers wanted to do this,” Leiva said. “We spoke with administration. Last year was our first year.”
This year's 135 visits went well, Leiva said. She attended three. Those three parents said their preschoolers were so excited about their teacher coming, “they kept going to the door saying, 'Are they here yet?'”
During Owen's visit, his mother and teacher talked about Owen and his three brothers. They discussed whether Owen would take the bus, whether he'd have hot lunch or bring his own.
His mother volunteered that Owen is allergic to tree nuts. "The nurse will have an EpiPen for him," she said.
She shared a few more Owen facts. He sits and listens well. He's shy when first meeting new people. He prefers to wear long-sleeve shirts and pants no matter how warm it is, because it makes him feel like a Texas Ranger.
Compared to talking to teachers at orientation, the home visit allowed a better sharing of information, Deanna Vincecruz said.
“This gives an opportunity to say things you might not want to squeeze in a small time frame with a million other parents and kids milling around,” she said.