(from left to right: Ms. Angela Abbiati, Mrs. Nicole Williams, Ms. Kathy Timmerman, and Miss Amy Dunn)
PA Distance is thrilled to introduce the newly-formed Community Engagement team for the 2020-2021 school year. The Family Engagement team facilitates open communication between PA Distance families and focuses on offering support when they need it. They also work to create strong ties between PA Distance and the communities across Pennsylvania in which we serve.
Community Engagement Coordinator, Ms. Angela Abbiati, and her team, Attendance Officer, Mrs. Nicole Williams, Commnuity Engagement Coach/Social Worker, Ms. Kathy Timmerman, and Community Engagement Coach/Academic Liaison, Miss Amy Dunn are excited to begin the new school year by getting to know each other and the PA Distance families. Each of them brings a unique set of skills and perspectives to the PA Distance team that will benefit students and their families.
Ms. Abbiati previously worked as a preschool teacher while working within a diverse community of families. She continued that path as she developed into administrative roles and as a family engagement manager for a local educational institution before starting at PA Distance just a few weeks ago.
"At heart, I am very invested in family engagement and have always wanted to focus on that in my career," Ms. Abbiati explained.
The formation of the Community Engagement team has allowed Ms. Abbiati to mold the department to serve students and their families best.
"We have experienced team members who understand what families go through. We have someone who is organized and values follow-up. We have individuals who have teaching experience and have the know-how to facilitate communication between teachers and parents," Ms. Abbiati said. "We have a great combination of skills that will form a solid Community Engagement department."
One of those team members is the Attendance Officer, Mrs. Nicole Williams, who monitors each student's daily attendance. Since she started working at PA Distance this past February, Mrs. Williams is continuously communicating with students, PA Distance school counselors, and teachers to manage student academic success and how it relates to their attendance.
Mrs. Williams brings a wealth of experience to her role at PA Distance. She previously worked for a company that developed a K-12 curriculum for both brick-and-mortar school districts and cyber charter schools. She also worked at Robert Morris University in their undergraduate and graduate virtual programs, where she helped form student schedules.
PA Distance students have to be active within online school programs each school day to be marked as present. If Mrs. Williams notices that a student hasn't been doing so for three days in a semester, she will reach out to their parents or guardian to understand each situation. Each student and family is different, so she tries to understand each student and their circumstances and helps in any way.
"I've had families reach out to me with personal concerns, and we work together with our social worker, Mrs. Kathy Timmerman, to assess their needs and find a way to help out," Mrs. Williams explained. "Our jobs involve a lot of teamwork."
Miss Amy Dunn, the PA Distance Community Engagement Coach/Academic Liaison, has been working in special education and educational leadership roles for several years. After moving back to Pennsylvania from her job in Florida, she began working within educational institutions with a variety of diversity and family backgrounds.
As the academic liaison within the Community Engagement team, Miss Dunn is the bridge between families' needs and academic performance.
"I work to provide families with the services they need and that the academics work alongside the social services to make sure they are successful," Miss. Dunn explained. "I'll be working directly with the students and families to assess their needs."
Miss Dunn is also going to be heavily engaged in creating relationships with organizations across the state, like YMCAs, sporting events, STEM workshops, and other enrichment opportunities across Pennsylvania. Miss Dunn, and the rest of the team, focus on engagement outside of the regular school activities. From events throughout the state to internal staff training sessions, the opportunities are endless.
"We are looking at the demographics and age groups for each region of the state where our students live so that we can effectively plan events with these organizations to benefit our students and their families," Miss Dunn explained.
They are also looking at bringing multicultural training courses to PA Distance staff and finding ways to implement relevant topics into academic instruction.
PA Distance's new Community Engagement Coach/Social Worker, Ms. Kathy Timmerman, has years of social work experience within children's youth services with a strong family support philosophy.
"When a family comes to me with an issue, I talk with them and find out what they need and work with them to get resources to help," Ms. Timmerman explained.
Ms. Timmerman will coordinate with School Counselors, administrators, and teachers to connect with families in need. As long as parents are comfortable talking with her, she can step in and introduce herself.
"It's always been my passion for working within a school," Ms. Timmerman said. "Everything that I've done up until this point has allowed me to gain the experience needed to now do this job. It's rewarding to be able to help people through something."
"One of our goals this year is to help parents and families locate resources within their communities and coordinate with those organizations to form relationships," Ms. Abbiati explained.
"My job involves a lot of networking across the state," Ms. Timmerman explained. "I've been working on a county-by-county resource guide for parents to reference if they need assistance on the local level."
After finishing the regional resource guide, Ms. Timmerman is also planning to create a national resource guide and a guide for teachers and other PA Distance staff members.
Although the Community Engagement team is new to PA Distance, they have already been working hard together to kick off the 2020-2021 school year with a new spin on some existing initiatives. This week, the Family Engagement team is hosting virtual Parent Orientation Sessions for the newly enrolled students and their families. These in-depth orientations are designed to educate parents about daily life at PA Distance and how to support them best while learning in a new online environment.
"So far, our team is already very tight-knit and driven with a common purpose," Miss. Dunn explained. "We all come from different backgrounds in education, and we all wear different hats in our roles here. I'm excited to be a part of a team that can collaborate as well as we do to provide support to students with all different needs."
"We want to make sure that the parents have enough information to help their children get a quality education," Ms. Abbiati said. "Our team brings so much experience and resources to the table."
"Throughout the year, our team will communicate with parents through phone calls, emails, and other engagement activities each week," Ms. Abbiati said. "We will make sure we communicate well with the staff, so we know what is happening in each of their classes."
"Our mission at PA Distance includes providing personalized learning for our students, but our department is going to focus on personalized support for the parents, too," Miss. Dunn added.
Parent Orientation Sessions
The Community Engagement team encourages both new and returning families to attend our live online orientation sessions. The Parent Orientation provides information parents will need to know to support their student's learning.
To register for a Parent Orientation Session, please contact the Family Engagement Team:
Amy Dunn, Community Engagement Coach, email@example.com
Kathy Timmerman, Community Engagement Coach/Social Worker, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicole Williams, Attendance Officer, email@example.com
Angela Abbiati, Community Engagement Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org