HILLSDALE — During the past six years, all three of Heather Sterk’s children have benefitted from the Parents as Teachers program, and she knows firsthand just how important the learning and play activities have been for their development.

“The parent-educators are a gift to both the parent and the children,” said Sterk, who is from Paola. “My kids are always thrilled to hear that ‘Miss Keely is coming over,’ which really means, a fun activity is about to happen.”

The Parents as Teachers Consortium is based at the Hillsdale Learning Center. Paola USD 368 is the host district, but the program also serves the school districts of Louisburg, Osawatomie, Prairie View, Pleasanton, Jayhawk, Central Heights and Garnett.

Director Callie Peace said she and her colleagues have worked hard to make sure the Parents as Teachers Consortium is implementing the evidence-based model with utmost fidelity, and their efforts recently were rewarded when it was announced that the consortium has received national recognition as a Blue Ribbon Affiliate.

The official designation was made Oct. 1, and it makes the Hillsdale-based consortium one of the top performing affiliates within the Parents as Teachers National Center’s international network. Blue Ribbon-endorsed sites demonstrate high quality implementation of evidence-based home visiting, according to a news release.

“The program includes home visits, group connections, child screening and connections to community resources,” Peace said. “It equips parents with knowledge and resources to prepare their children for a stronger start in life and greater success in school.”

Sterk said the program has been incredibly beneficial to her family.

“The Parent-Educator provides research-based curriculum specific to the child’s age, and the activities are so engaging the child just thinks it is play,” Sterk said. “And the activities utilize everyday items from around the home, which helps the parent repurpose ordinary things into learning and memory making opportunities with their children.”

The Blue Ribbon status will be in place for the next five years, and Peace said they plan to keep it in place moving forward by ensuring that all staff members fill out paperwork correctly and document all necessary information.

“To earn the Blue Ribbon Affiliate status, we underwent a rigorous self-study and review process from the National Center,” Peace said. “The process confirms that we are meeting Parents as Teachers’ standards of fidelity and quality. Blue Ribbon Affiliates are exemplary programs, delivering highest quality services to children and families.”

Peace said the Blue Ribbon honor verifies that the program is being implemented as designed, and she’s happy to be a part of it.

“I’m super proud to have worked for Parents as Teachers for 20 years,” Peace said. “It’s the best, and they’re always forward thinking.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit this year, Peace said the Parents as Teachers program was already implementing a pilot program for virtual meetings to make the process more convenient for families.

Local community members wanting to learn more about the Parents as Teachers Consortium and the activities they provide are encouraged to visit the Parents as Teachers Consortium Facebook page.

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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