Stacey Vanhoy’s motto is #RelationshipsMatter. She began her career in education in 2003 as a co-founder of REAL Schools Initiative (now REAL School Gardens), a non-profit in Fort Worth, TX that created outdoor learning environments in low-income elementary schools. She also spent two years as the Facilitator of Outdoor Education at a Montessori charter school, before receiving her teaching certificate and teaching 7th and 8th grade science in Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas.
Her time in Austin during the 2013 Texas legislative session, ignited a spark that moved her out of the classroom. She joined Stand for Children with the goal of building an educator voice that spoke for students. Forty educators, during a year-long fellowship in 2014-15, were asked what the number one thing that would have the greatest impact on the lives of their students right then, and they all said, “family engagement.”
In 2015-16, Stacey led a pilot of the Home Visit Project in 10 schools with 46 educators resulting in 328 home visits. Not a huge number, but it was the stories the educators told that let her know she was on to something.
The project expanded to include 55 campuses with 530 participants conducting 4,034 home visits in 2016-17. The next year, there was no need to recruit new campuses or participants, the word was out and the numbers grew yet again to 75 campuses, over 800 participants and 2,870 home visits for the fall alone.
Although data shows trends for decreased absenteeism, decreased discipline referrals, and gains in academic achievement of those students receiving visits, what really excites Stacey are the stories teachers share. Teachers and school staff are shifting how the view families and students once they’ve visited the home. And, families and students are opening up and reaching out to teachers and staff because of the trust that has been built.
Our world is changing, education is changing, and this is an opportunity to change both the definition of family engagement and how we do it.