After completing my first year teaching Algebra 1 as a Teach For America corps member, I was exhausted. For ten months, my ninth graders and I had worked tirelessly to meet our goal of at least 45% of students passing the End of Course exam (up from the 18% of students who passed this test the previous year). So when it came time to make summer plans, I decided to take a short break from teaching and headed to New York to spend time with family and friends.

One day, while spending time with my cousin and her two sons, I was surprised to find my cousin teaching her four-year-old son the concept of saving – she was encouraging him to save his quarters to buy a new toy. Watching my cousin with her sons, I realized that I wanted to find additional ways to engage my students’ parents in their children’s academic growth and success.

Teachers play a critical role in providing kids, particularly those growing up in low-income communities, the kind of education that will put them on a path to lifelong success. But I believe that to be truly successful, teachers need to step outside of their classrooms and work with others in the community, including parents.

Many parents I spoke to last year told me that they want their kids to succeed in school but weren’t sure how they could support them. Thinking back to those conversations and having watched my cousin and her kids, I decided to push myself in the coming year to reach out to the parents of my students, giving them the support they need to encourage their children.  I know that if we can work as partners with parents, we can help our students achieve the most success.

I want to help my students’ parents feel connected to my classroom, giving them the option to participate in learning alongside their kids. I also want to empower them in the same way I strive to empower their children, asking for their help in closing the achievement gap. I’m really excited about this fall, to see my kids, and to get to know my students’ parents, who may prove to be the most important resource in helping their students succeed.