Parent Teacher Leadership Academy Celebrates 2023 Graduation

by Sophia Xiong

Graduate Assistant, Center for Community-Based Partnerships

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) celebrated the graduation of its 2022–2023 class April 6 at the Tuscaloosa River Market. Parents and teachers from 35 schools joined the celebration.

PTLA is a fun and informative program for school teams of teachers and parents to come together to support learning opportunities for students. PTLA school teams meet for six sessions from September through March each academic year. School teams collaborate on a partnership project based on a school improvement goal. Teams also have opportunities to collaborate with other schools and districts during the sessions.

Andrea Ziegler, director for Community Education in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, welcomed participants. “Throughout this year, parents and teachers have collaborated in school teams to create partnership projects aligned with one of their [respective] school’s improvement goals,” said Ziegler. “As you walked through here tonight, you saw evidence of these teams’ hard work throughout the year as you saw their project proposal posters. Our mission at PTLA is building community by supporting children and families. And that’s not only the stated purpose, but also echoes the values that are mirrored by our university’s strategic plan as a community-engaged institution.”

The graduation ceremony began with opening remarks by Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs. “Years ago, we thought about this program as an idea. I’m a math person, so when they said the broader the involvement, the higher the student achievement, my first thought was how many meetings do we have? Later I reached out to a friend in the College of Education, and we finally came up with a model. Now it’s been 16 years. The current leadership of Dr. Jim McLean and Andrea Ziegler reinvented it. This group is a little different, but it feels good to see that this program is still beneficial to the participants, and ultimately beneficial to children and families, which is what we set out to accomplish.”

Four school teams shared their projects. Thompson High School presented “Project Readiness” preparing students for success in high school; Southview Elementary School presented “Curriculum Ed Camp” to encourage parent support for academics; Cottondale Elementary School presented “Family Traditions Night” to showcase family diversity; and Bankhead Middle School presented “Cookie Decorating Contest” to support student social and emotional growth through the support of adult mentors.

“With the Curriculum Ed Camp for our parents, they are able to find different strategies to help their children on activities they can do at home,” said Cyrinthia Burrell, 4th-grade teacher at Southview Elementary. “We noticed that, this year, we see a grade increase in our classroom report card. By making the connection with parents, we hope next year we can get students better report cards again.”

Lindsey Williams, a Cottondale Elementary parent, also shared the importance of their group project. “We had a family traditions night at the end of March,” said Williams. “We asked everyone if they wanted to bring out a table and show what their family does. We also invited the Latino coalition, the United Way and the Alabama Multicultural Alliance as community partners to the event.”

In the last session, Ziegler announced the grant winners this year. Five school teams received grants from PTLA. They are Arcadia Elementary, Cottondale Elementary, Creek View Elementary, Taylorville Primary and Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.