November 4, 2022
Find Out Why Conejo Elementary Is One of America’s Healthiest Schools
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Conejo Elementary School in Thousand Oaks, California, was recently named one of America’s Healthiest Schools, with recognition in Family and Community Engagement. Healthier Generation and Kohl’s Healthy at Home are proud to celebrate Conejo Elementary’s outstanding efforts to engage the entire school community with inclusive and innovative programming. Although many of its initiatives are new, they are already gaining positive feedback from students, families, and staff. We connected with Principal Erica Ultreras to learn more.
“Conejo School is a place that I feel safe all the time and will support me no matter what.” – Conejo Elementary School Student
Seeking and Valuing Family Feedback
Conejo Elementary launched a Measurable Results Survey that invites students and families "to share their opinions regarding a range of topics including personal leadership, health and safety, emotional well-being, and social-emotional development,” says Principal Ultreras. “The results of the survey are used to develop our school goals for the staff, students, and the community. It also guides the planning of our family engagement events, parent education curriculum, and the intervention services we provide.”
A dedicated outreach team evaluates the survey feedback and helps connect their community with ESL tutoring, mental health workshops, family walk and talk events, the longstanding Leader in Me program, dual-language immersion, and more.
The feedback families are sharing in the Measurable Results Survey speaks to Conejo Elementary’s success. A parent said in the latest survey, “Absolutely love the Leader in Me program and the school is warm and friendly, with strong emotional and academic support for my children.” And staff reiterates these sentiments: “The Leader in Me has really helped some of my students blossom. They love talking about Growth Mindset and feel so proud of themselves when they are able to track their WIGs and hit their personal goals!”
Opportunities developed through the Measurable Results Survey and ongoing feedback build toward one of Conejo Elementary’s top goals for the year: “to organize and lead family events in a way that allows families to learn from each other, regardless of language and cultural background differences.”
“Every family has skills and talents to contribute, and we want every family to feel empowered to do so.” – Principal Ultreras
Supporting Language Immersion and Literacy
Supporting multilingualism and multiculturalism plays a key role in Conejo Elementary’s success. Families are coming together as learners and leaders through new dual-language immersion (DLI) classes and the Latino Family Literacy Project.
Initially, Conejo Elementary staff hoped to enroll two kindergarten classes in a DLI program in English and Spanish to begin in fall 2022. Interest exceeded their expectations, and they now offer four DLI classes, including a transitional kindergarten class! It’s too early to measure the full impact of this program, but so far this year family engagement is growing. Principal Ultreras says:
"More parents are attending school events, volunteering on campus, and collaborating with each other to make great things happen for our students… Although our transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students are young, they are quickly realizing that their words and voice are very powerful. Students who typically would sit quietly in class because they don’t speak English can now understand and contribute to class discussions in their native tongue."
The DLI classes are for children in families who primarily speak English or Spanish at home and want to improve language skills in both languages. “Our DLI parents are grateful that their children are getting the opportunity to learn a new language and learn about different cultures. Our parents know that being a multilingual and multicultural leader (at our school, everyone is a leader) will open new doors of possibilities for their children.”
Spanish-speaking caregivers and parents in particular have shared that they feel better equipped to contribute to their child’s education without feeling intimidated because they don’t speak English. They also appreciate how they can more easily communicate with teachers. Families who primarily speak English participate in the Spanish-language meeting so they can learn or refine their Spanish skills and engage more with their community.
In addition to the DLI program, the Latino Family Literacy Project offers literacy education to parents, caregivers, and children in Spanish and English. Adults are learning strategies to help their children become stronger readers while developing their own English-language skills and promoting bi-culturalism. According to program leaders, “Families share personal stories about their own families and the text-to-self connections the books resonate…”
“The Latino Family Literacy Project has encouraged them to gather as a family as they read a book, learn new skills, and celebrate their culture.” – Principal Ultreras
Does your school support whole child and whole family health for students and staff? Learn more about applying for recognition as one of America’s Healthiest Schools!