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Carolyn Tisdale is 'Really Cool' at Uthoff Valley Elementary School

Tisdale is an out-of-district parent who is making a difference in her daughter's lives and in the lives of her other "Backer Babies."

The following article was written by Peggy Magee for Parent Link, the newsletter published by the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation.

If were possible to clone parent Carolyn Tisdale, school staff and students
everywhere would jump at the chance.

At Rockwood’s , where Tisdale has two daughters, the faculty admires her for what teacher Julie Backer describes as, “going way beyond the average expectation of parent involvement.”

This past year, Tisdale volunteered regularly in her daughter Trinity’s first grade class and, according to Backer, the kiddos always looked forward to her visits because of her “full out” participation, including working with them in the classroom, eating lunch in the cafeteria and playing with them at recess.

“All my students think Mrs. Tisdale is really cool,” confirms Backer.

Recognizing that Tisdale is one special mom, the Rockwood district awarded her
its coveted Rose award, which this year went to 15 individuals who showed excellence of character, performance, leadership and service to the Rockwood school district. In addition to Tisdale, Rose award recipients included teachers, administrators, a classroom assistant and a bus driver who were chosen from among the 250 persons nominated.

By any standards, Tisdale goes above and beyond at Uthoff Valley Elementary School in Fenton. Not only did she do her classroom volunteering two to three Wednesdays a month (staying on to join the children at lunch and on the playground), she was present at nearly every school activity involving her daughters, including the first day of school event, the fall festival, music performances and field trips, as well as PTO meetings. In past years, Tisdale has done a lot with 10-year-old Terrena’s classes, such as volunteering for class parties and other special events.

Her active involvement is even more impressive given her circumstances. The
family lives in St. Louis and has been without a car since it was stolen nearly two years ago from outside their apartment.

Tisdale rides the Metro bus to do her classroom volunteering and to get to many other functions at the school. Uthoff Valley is more than 15 miles from
her home near Carondelet Park where she resides with her husband Terrence,
their two daughters and 14-year-old son, Isaiah, who is autistic.

The bus drops her at the McDonald’s about a half-mile from the school and she walks the rest of the way, no matter rain, shine, wind or snow, according to Julie Backer.

Tisdale says she is engaged in her children’s education because she cherishes being part of their young lives and because she knows how much it means to them.

“My girls look forward to me coming to school. It makes their day.”

Her loving and caring manner extends to all the school children with whom she comes in contact, as reflected in a comment she repeats often, “I love all
my Backer babies,” referring to the children in Julie Backer’s class.

Tisdale’s hands-on routine sends a strong message to her girls, plus makes a wonderful impression on the other children, according to principal Connie Browning.

“Mrs. Tisdale’s daughters see that education matters to her and that is
a motivating factor when children see the priority their parents place on education.” Pointing to the connections and relationships Tisdale builds with the other students, Browning notes, “It has such a positive impact on them.”

Being so tied into the school community has had some unintended outcomes
for which Tisdale is especially appreciative. Having talked to other moms about
the Girl Scout troop at Uthoff Valley, she enrolled Trinity in it and with the help of Trinity’s leader, she found a troop that is a good fit for Terrena not far from their home. On meeting days for Trinity, a family hosts her after school until the scout meetings start and other scout moms take turns driving her home.

When Trinity was invited to a classmate’s birthday party in High Ridge, an
arrangement was worked out whereby Tisdale and Trinity met the host family at
a half way point – South County Mall (a straight-shot bus ride for Tisdale) – and
mom and Terrena browsed the mall until Trinity was returned there. “I’m so pleased that my girls can spend time with their friends outside of the school day,” she notes.

Tisdale has a saying that guides the family in all they do: “We may not have
a lot, but we make the most of what we do have.” One opportunity they have,
she points out, is the ability to attend the Rockwood district. “We are so fortunate,” she says. And she takes full advantage of it by becoming immersed in everything that’s happening at school.

By attending the informational sessions for parents on the first day of school
(she caught a 6:30 a.m. bus), Tisdale found out about academic resources
and curriculum information that she taps into often. Many times before arriving at Mrs. Backer’s class, she had already read the book that she was asked to work on that day with the students. She utilizes the school’s website to access books the girls can read for Accelerated Reader credits. Mrs. Backer’s class website, which features fun ideas and interactive activities, captures the attention of mother and daughter on a regular basis. “Trinity likes to update her class on our family’s activities,” mom says with a smile.

As a result of Tisdale’s presence at the school, she has developed relationships with faculty and administrators.

“Because of the comfort level we have with one another, I am not afraid to ask questions or request assistance,” she explains, adding that everyone responds in a most helpful manner. The same holds true for other parents, she says. She is so well thought of that she has been asked to serve as an officer on the PTO next year, a responsibility for which she feels honored and was pleased to accept.

Principal Browning believes the example Tisdale sets for other non-resident parents is a good thing too. “They see that it is possible to be part of their
children’s education and to be seen as a valuable volunteer.”

School counselor Lisa Sandbothe totally agrees:

“Other parents can see it is doable.”

Not only doable, but so much to be gained by it, is Tisdale’s way of thinking. She encourages other parents to “open that door” to becoming active in their children’s school lives. “Find out what’s there for you. You’ll be happy you did, I promise you.”

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