Foster Grandparents at AECC Help Support Students

Grandparents hold a special place in the lives of children.  Going to grandma’s house as a kid usually involves some extra snacks, some extra hugs, and maybe a small break from the rules at home.  There is a special bond that forms between a grandparent and a grandchild during childhood.  There is also something poetic about each person in that bond finding themselves at different ends of the age spectrum – the grandparent being wise and full of lessons learned throughout life; the grandchild just starting out on their journey and trying their best to learn about the world around them.  While the bonds between grandparents and grandchildren are normally formed outside of school, Haywood County Schools (HCS) and Anderson Early Childhood Center (AECC) are supporting students by bringing “Foster Grannies” into school to help support students academically and emotionally.

The Foster Grandparent program is sponsored by the Southwest Human Resource Agency and has been part of AECC for over ten years.  The purpose of the program is to provide one-on-one support for students by helping students actively participate in class, improve self-esteem in students, and academically prepare students for future success.  

AECC Principal, Chris Haliburton, sees the benefits of the program on a daily basis.

“Everybody loves the Foster Grannies here.  We have more teachers requesting to have Foster Grannies in their classrooms,” he said.  “The kids love having them in class, too.”

The three foster grandparents at AECC are Anna Lewis, Lavern Pruitt, and DeeDee Williamson.  These three ladies help assist teachers in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes by providing educational support for students by listening to students read, helping students with work, and simply being a loving adult that students can access during the school day.

“They come five days a week and work until noon,” Chris said.  “They add so much positivity to the culture of our building.”

Not only do the children receive the benefit of the program, the Foster Grannies are also positively impacted by the relationships that are formed each year with the students.

Anna Lewis has been a Foster Granny at AECC for nine years.  She says that interacting with children has helped to keep her young and keeps her busy.

“I love being with the children; it keeps me active and keeps my mind sharp,” she said.

Her favorite part about the job, however, is the nurturing aspect that she can provide the students.  She understands how busy parenting can be for working mothers and fathers.  Because parents are busy providing for their children, the extra emotional support provided by the Foster Grannies is especially important for the students.

“I love helping and being around the kids.  I know a lot of their parents are working multiple jobs and they don’t have as much time to spend with the children at home.  That’s where I come in: the kids gotta tell granny about the bump on their arm or the sore on their foot,” Anna explained.  “They gotta tell granny about it cause mom and dad may not have had time to hear about it cause they’re busy providing for the family and working.”

Not only are relational bonds formed between the Foster Grandparents and students, but the program also forges bonds between the teachers and grandparents, too.

Lavern Pruitt has been a Foster Granny at AECC for nearly 15 years.  She has been in Denise Hooser’s Kindergarten class the entire time.  

“We all love Ms. Lavern,” Denise said.  “The kids gravitate to her, and she has been such a support in my classroom all these years.  We truly are a team.”

Lavern also appreciates being in the same room all these years.

“I love Ms. Denise and all the kids in the class.  They keep me young.  We’re a team, and I help with anything I can: if they need some help with work, I give ‘em some help.  If they need a hug, I give them a hug,” Lavern said.  

Principal Haliburton explained how Foster Grandparents can provide a lot of academic and behavioral support in classrooms and can even allow classroom teachers to spend more time individually interacting with students.

“In some cases, because of the Foster Grannies, we’ll have four adults in a class of 16 students.  It really is an excellent support for our students,” he said.  “We’d love to expand and have more Foster Grannies if we could.  They’re so welcoming to our kids and the kids love having them in classes.”

While academic and behavioral support is vital in a school setting, sometimes the best thing young students need is to tell a Foster Granny about a scratch on their arm or why their favorite animal is a tiger.  But, most of all, it’s just nice for a four or five year old to get a warm hug from a grandmother when they’re having a bad day at school.