The Teacher Makes House Calls

Within seconds of Abeba welcoming Danielle into the apartment, Melat, her 2-year-old daughter is eagerly showing off her new toys. She races up and down the narrow hallway between her bedroom and the living room bringing books, plastic cars, and favorite pieces of clothing with her. Melat’s older brother, 4-year-old Biniyam, is fast asleep on the nearby sofa — napping after a busy day in preschool. His mother scoops him up and kisses him on both cheeks “it’s time to get up, teacher Danielle is here with more games.”

Designed to provide families with educational support and help prepare their children for kindergarten, Neighborhood House’s home visiting program connects parents and their young children with free, in-home support to help them achieve their educational goals.

Abeba first learned about the home visit program when her son began attending Neighborhood House’s preschool in Highland Park. She was amazed to learn that a teacher would be willing to visit her house and spend one-on-one time with her children. “I never knew teachers came to houses. When I learned about the program I thought ‘That’s kind of nice, we don’t pay a penny and she comes to our house. That’s a big deal!’”

As a child development specialist with Neighborhood House, Danielle DeRose teaches daily preschool classes and visits 30 homes each month. During a typical visit she leads a variety of activities to help children develop the math and early literacy skills so essential to school success. Because every child and family is different, activities are specially tailored for each visit. Danielle will often create easy-to-replicate games or lessons using inexpensive materials so that parents can make these exercises a part of their daily routine in the weeks between visits. When Danielle visits Abeba and her children they all sit on the floor and participate in activities together: “It means a lot to help my children learn,” Abeba says. “Danielle brings games, toys, we read books and tell stories — I’m thankful for her. We always sit in a circle as a group, a family. Like a little school right in my home.”

Danielle looks forward to every home visit because she has an opportunity to form a bond with students and their families that extends far beyond their work in the preschool classroom. “Home visits break down barriers between parents and educators. Families get to know the teachers more intimately, and teachers get to experience their students on their home turf – where they are most comfortable and confident. It puts us on the same team, and creates a space for parents to be actively involved in their children’s education.”

For parents looking to become more involved in their children’s educational success, the benefits are immediate and long reaching. “My dream is for my children to have a good education.” Abeba says. “I don’t want them to work like I do right now for $8 per hour, I want them to be in a good place. I want them to live a good life, with a good education, and to be good people.”

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Anders Ringdahl-MaylandBy Anders Ringdahl-Mayland