Barbara Williams may not be heading back to school herself, but that doesn’t make the beginning of the school year any less exciting for the Garrison’s school liaison officer.
“What’s exciting for me is to see kids so thrilled about a new year and the possibilities and the opportunities to learn,” Williams said. “As a former educator, it’s always exciting for me. I’m elated to see parents being advocates for their children, wanting the best for them, the best schools, best programs. It’s rewarding to be a part of the process.”
As school liaison officer, Williams works day in and day out to help parents and families navigate the area’s education system, whether it be sharing information about enrollment, academics, extracurricular activities, special needs and other items of importance to a child’s educational experience, or helping them resolve issues as they arise. Anyone who is federally connected is eligible to use her free services. To talk to Williams, parents can call 842-9642, or stop by her office at the Community Welcome Center, building 3443.
“Not only am I here to assist with initial enrollments but I am here to help with any and all concerns or questions parents have about schools,” said Williams, who takes an active role in becoming intimately familiar with the local education community, by attending school board, principal, PTA meetings and other educational events in the area. “I can help if their child needs referrals for special education or gifted programs. I’m available to accompany parents if they have an issue at school they’re not quite comfortable with and they need a second person to be a part of the conference. I’m here for them.”
As a former educator herself – prior to becoming school liaison officer Williams taught in both elementary and high school, served as an assistant principal at the middle school level and as director of pupil services at a district office – she has a few words of wisdom for parents as they begin this new school year.
“One piece of advice that I always give parents is to stay engaged in their child’s education as much as possible,” Williams said. “Volunteer, email teachers and counselors. Attend school meetings, PTA meetings, parent-teacher conferences. Make those unexpected visits – go eat lunch with your child for example. That’s how you keep your hand on the pulse of how your child is really doing in school, when you’re engaged, you’re asking questions and getting information and don’t wait until report card time comes and ask, ‘What happened?’”
That advice is particularly important for dads, Williams said.
“There are so many children that need to see positive male role models in the school,” Williams said. “I always encourage dads to do as much as possible.”
Williams also encourages parents to continue to teach their children even when they’re not in the classroom, through reading, traveling and personal experiences.
“I’m really big on reading,” Williams said. “Read with your child. Have your child read outside of school. If you have a good reader, your child can do any subject – math, science, English, history – it all starts with being a good reader. Always, always take time to read to your child and listen to them read. Let them read to you, test their comprehension, ask them about scenarios, test to see if they know things in the proper sequence. All of those are building literacy skills. We can teach that just in everyday interaction with our kids – don’t use just baby words, teach them vocabulary, use it in the proper context and they’ll do the same thing. I’ve heard 5-year-olds have a vocabulary of a 15-year-old and that’s simply from everyday conversation.”
Williams also has resources available to help parents with older children, including literature and books especially tailored to teen issues, as well as information on how they can plan out their four years of high school to maximize success, such as when to take the SAT or certain advanced courses.
For more information about Williams’ services, call 842-9642, or stop by her office at the Community Welcome Center, building 3443.