By working together, parents and teachers can accomplish more healthy changes.
Far too often, parents and teachers work in silos. While teachers might be trying to incorporate healthy changes — such as healthy celebrations and movement breaks — into the classroom, parents are trying to make healthier choices at home. But these two key groups can work better and smarter — if they work together.
No one knows that better than parent leader Marta Ramirez. Several years ago, Marta met Jovita Flores and got involved in Parents United for Healthy Schools, HSC’s coalition of parents from across Chicago that advocates for healthy school environments. The coalition was formed in 2006 out of concern for the skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity and the growing health disparities among the Latino and African-American communities in Chicago. Parent leaders from Parents United are working with teachers and school staff to combat the childhood obesity epidemic by implementing new wellness policies, forming wellness teams and holding healthy fundraisers.
At Jungman Elementary School, where her daughter attends and her son attended, Marta works with physical education teacher, wellness champion and Fit to Learn participant Lori Klein-Blazek. Lori has taught in Chicago Public Schools for almost three decades and takes the health and fitness of her students very seriously. Both Marta and Lori are members of Jungman’s wellness team.
Together, Marta and Lori have been making great strides in improving the food and fitness at Jungman. One key thing is making sure the food at parent and teachers meetings is healthy. This helps model ideal behavior for the students — both at home and and school. It’s not fair, Marta said, for students to see teachers and parents eating junk food during a meeting and then for them to turn around and tell students not to eat the same junk food at lunch. Marta has also started fitness and nutrition classes for parents, helping pass on the knowledge she’s learned to other parents.
The work is paying off in some very important ways. Marta’s 15-year-old son used to have cholesterol problems, but thanks to key changes made at home and at his school, he doesn’t anymore.
Passing on her knowledge is especially important for Marta as her daughter will be moving on soon to a new school. Marta’s been working hard to build the foundation of parent and teacher teamwork for the next generation of Jungman parent leaders, and she wants to make sure the progress continues. “The changes that parents can make together are strong,” said Marta. “The strength is in the numbers.”