The Puma Pride Parent Teacher Association at Firestone Charter Academy received a prestigious distinction for their work on Tuesday.
The organization was one of only two PTAs in Colorado to be named a 2021-2023 National PTA School of Excellence. The award was presented to the PTA on Tuesday night by Michelle Winzent, treasurer for the Colorado PTA.
“It’s really hard to get this award, so they had to do a lot of work,” Winzent said. “It’s really phenomenal. It really shows that they’re working with their parents and the school community, which is really important because it takes everybody.”
The Puma Pride PTA got the distinction in recognition of their work to improve social emotional learning for students at Firestone Charter Academy. The PTA sent out a survey to parents and school staff last year asking a variety of questions, but especially about social emotional learning.
“Mainly to see how parents were feeling about kids adjusting with going back to school after COVID,” PTA President Sarah Driller said.
Eighty percent of respondents said they would like to see more social-emotional skills being taught in the K-8 school, according to Driller. The PTA took that information and met with school administration to put together a plan of how they could work to make that better.
The PTA hosted a Healthy Minds event in the spring, sharing resources, ways to help kids and skills parents could teach at home related to social emotional learning. The school also looked for improvements of the then-current curriculum for social emotional learning, eventually choosing a new curriculum to help specifically with self regulation.
“We resurveyed school families and staff to see if they felt like there had been an improvement and there was,” Driller said.
Also on Tuesday night, the PTA held a ribbon cutting for the new book vending machine. Lit up with a rainbow of disco lights at the school entrance, the PTA held a math-a-thon last school year that got students practicing math and raised the funds for the machine.
Driller said teachers and parents really supported the effort, with the PTA raising almost $14,000 for the book vending machine, far surpassing their fundraising goal of $5,000. Along with the vending machine, the PTA was able to set aside money for ongoing purchases of books.
The machine holds about 250-300 books at a time and supports the reading challenge at the school. When students get half way to their reading goal for the school year, they’ll be able to get a token for the vending machine and select any book inside that they get to keep for free. Students who finish the reading challenge will get a second token for another free book.
“This is something we’re doing to try and promote literacy, just make it a little bit more fun and exciting,” Driller said.