Natchez-Adams School District parent of the year Liz Blalock sits with her four children, from left, Adara, Theron, Tristan and Timothy. (Photo by Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Face time: Parents get involved in children’s schools

Published 10:11am Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wherever Liz Blalock goes, chances are that two curious, tow-headed little boys will be following in tote.

And when Theron, 1, and Tristan, 3, take a trip to Frazier Primary School, they are some of the campus’ favorite visitors.

Blalock recognizes that no matter how many responsibilities she has at home, she can’t put a price on face time at her older children’s schools.

In addition to raising four young children ages 1 to 8, Blalock acts as the PTA president at Frazier, where her oldest son, Timothy, goes to school. She’s also involved in fundraising and a number of other activities at West Primary, where her daughter, Adara, recently attended kindergarten.

How does she handle it all with two little ones at home?

“They just hang out with me,” Blalock says of her common companions, Theron and Tristan.

“The whole school knows my kids.”

As a former teacher, Blalock said she feels very comfortable at school and makes a point to be on campus often without bothering for a babysitter.

“(Parent involvement) lets children know school is important to you, so it should be important to them,” Blalock said.

Erick Woods Jr. smiles at his great aunt Marilyn Woods, West Primary School’s parent of the year. (Photo by Ben Hillyer The Natchez Democrat)

The Natchez-Adams School District recently named Blalock the district-wide parent of the year, an annual recognition.

Her assistance on campus could be attributed to her experience in the classroom.

When Blalock led the classroom, she knew how big of a difference parental involvment could make. So she said she wants to be there for her children’s teachers as much as she is there for her children.

“(School) becomes a team effort,” Blalock said.

Walking around with four kids talking all at once and wandering close by, Blalock seems not in the least frazzled or worried.

“I’ve always been one who wanted to be around kids,” she said.

At age 11 she started babysitting, in high school she taught children swimming lessons and she became a teacher as an adult before playing the role of mom.

“I always enjoy (children’s) energy and the way that they learn,” she said. “It’s amazing when you’re with a child and they learn something new, they just get so … amazed by something new in the world,” she said.

And by maintaining a strong presence in the classroom as well as in the living room, Blalock has had a chance to watch the learning in action of her own children.

Blalock said she likes how the teachers and other students at her children’s school know her by name, or close to it.

“‘Hey, it’s Timothy’s mom,’” students call out to her, she said.

McLaurin School’s parent of the year Shemeka Ware gives her daughter Jasmine a big hug. (Photo by Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

And while she knows it encourages her children to see her face at their school, she believes it benefits the entire campus.

“I know how it feels having another adult there, it makes (teachers and other students) feel good, too,” Blalock said.

Marilyn Woods, West Primary School

Marilyn Woods might not be as young as some of the other parents at West Primary, but her edge is in her experience.

Woods, 48, has been raising her great nephew, Erick Woods Jr., since he was an infant.

She has also worked in the district for 17 years, most recently as the clerk in the West library.

Woods said she knew when her sister’s grandchild was born that she would take on the responsibility of rearing him.

“I made up my mind when he was real young that I’ve got to make sure he gets a (good educational) foundation,” Woods said.

Woods said every child needs an adult to provide that extra push they need to do well in school, and she’s happy to be that person.

Shameka Ware, McLaurin Elementary School

Shameka Ware, a psychology major at Alcorn State University, said when she moved back to Natchez she decided to throw all of her extra time into the education of her daughter, Jasmine Jackson.

She made a point to visit McLaurin Elementary School at least once a week. She started a parent involvement program, volunteered regularly with the school

choir and even files papers for teachers.

“I think (assisting teachers) is a part of the (parenting) process,” Ware said.

Penny Washington holds photographs of her father, George Washington, who was Morgantown School’s parent of the year, and his adopted son Tyreeq. George recently died. (Photo by Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

She’s also known to pop by Jasmine’s class to offer Jasmine and her classmates a cake for those who behave well during the week.

Ware said it’s important to her to have a presence at the school not only when her daughter gets in trouble but for positive moments as well.

“Parents have to understand they are their student’s positive advocate,” Ware said.

George Washington, Morgantown Elementary School

“He was the greatest father in the world,” said Penny Washington of her father, George — known to many in the community as “G.W.”

Shortly after George got the news he was named parent of the year, he died suddenly on April 2 of a pulmonary aneurysm at age 69. Penny accepted the award on his behalf.

It was difficult to find someone who didn’t know her father — also a minister at Morning Star Baptist Church — Penny said, and may people in town saw him as a father figure.

As the adopted father and biological grandfather of Morgantown student Tyreeq, 10, George never missed a basketball game in which his son played.

Penny said her father was well known throughout the district for many years because of his job as a special events coordinator for Coca-Cola.

No matter what the connection, George touched the lives of several children in the community, Penny said.

“My daughter just said he was Superman,” Penny said.

E’Keria Williams hugs her mother Tammy, Natchez High School’s parent of the year. (Photo by Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Tammy Williams,

Natchez High School

Tammy Williams started reading with her daughter, E’Keria, when E’Keria was 3 years old.

E’Keria is 14 and just completed her freshman year at Natchez High school, but the tradition still stands, Williams said.

“I’m always checking in on E’Keria,” Williams said.

Williams said she makes sure she shows her face on the school’s campus twice a week.

“I try to tell (E’Keria) you can do a lot of things in life, but make sure you put (education) first, and everything else will fall into place,” Williams said.

Though Williams emphasizes school, she knows that supporting her child will pay off in more ways than her report card.

“(I want to) make sure she’s well rounded,” Williams said.

MaKeisha Young, Central Alternative School

MaKeisha Young said staying positive for her children is an important motivating factor in their education.

She visits the school at least every other week and many of his friends know her by name around the campus.

By dropping in the classroom, she’s able to make sure she is on top of her son’s assignments.

At right, Central Alternative School’s parent of the year MaKeisha Young sits proudly with her son Adrian. (Photo by Ben Hillyer The Natchez Democrat)

“(That way) I know I haven’t missed anything,” she said.

Young said she tries to press upon her son, Adrian, how important his education will be for the rest of his life.

“I try to teach them if they have education no one can take it from them,” Young said.