Imagine being a kindergarten student who is finally feeling comfortable in their school learning environment. You’ve got friends that you get to play and learn with 5 days per week. Your teacher is so smart and teaches you so many cool things. All of a sudden, a pandemic takes over the world as you know it and you have to learn from home without your friends and it’s not as much fun as it was when you were in school. This is the reality for thousands of kindergarten students in Hillsborough County and all over the world.  

Since the pandemic started Champions has been a pillar of support in the community to help families and children cope and stay on track during these unprecedented times. Through it all, our Parents as Teachers home visiting program has worked closely with our participant families to provide resources and support for their children to finish out the school year strong. 

Parents as Teachers is an evidenced-based home visiting program that uses the most current research to promote healthy development and school readiness for children and families, prenatal through kindergarten. Parents are supported and empowered to work, play and read directly with their children to encourage them to reach their full potentials, both developmentally and emotionally. Home visits with a personal Parent Educator are the core of the PAT model. These visits focus on the child’s/baby’s brain development, providing activity information specific for the child and introducing the use of books into play. 

I am very grateful for this program. The services have provided us as a family with a lot of education and support, especially for my daughter’s education – she has learned a lot. Thank you to our parent educator for being with us. She has worked closely with my daughter and she has definitely shown an improvement with her reading. Even through the pandemic, we have received so much support when we needed it the most. – Ada Cruz, Parents as Teachers Parent

PAT works with families from birth through kindergarten. This past week, the PAT program held their annual graduation for the client families whose children will be entering first grade in the upcoming school year. This class graduated a record breaking 43 client families! Most of the children our parent educators work with are pre-kindergarten age, and only those in the “graduating class” are in Kindergarten. In many cases, these children/families have been with us for years. Our job is to get them through the critical early years and transition year of Kindergarten. The graduation is a celebration of all the work they’ve done, and this year – when there is so little continuity and so few opportunities to recognize milestones – it is an especially important event.

While not all of the client families were able to attend the virtual graduation, those who were in attendance had the chance to give their feedback and about the program. 

Our parent educator started with my family when my children were two oldests were 2 and 4 years old and my youngest was 2 weeks old. Thanks to the support and help from our parent educator, both of my oldest kids are in the gifted program! I am almost positive that my 5 year old who is going to kindergarten this year will be gifted as well. He was in a small school setting last year where he earned all of the prizes they gave the children because he knew how to spell, he knew his alphabet, shapes and numbers. This is not just a program for our children though, it is mainly a program for the parents. The parent educators teach us how to be better parents, how to interact with our children. and to be able to help them in their development and their education. Because of our parent educator’s support and the program’s support, I was prepared to help my children a lot better. – Parents as Teachers Parent

Thank you to our parent educator, she helped us a lot. She became more than just an educator to our family, she became a friend to us. She helped me a lot when my daughter was not speaking when she was little by guiding us to the services that she needed to be able to start her language therapy. Thank you to the Parents as Teacher program and our parent educator. This is a program that has definitely helped my family. – Parents as Teachers Parent

Since schools closed for the remainder of the year back in March, a sense of normalcy in our young children’s lives has been hard to come by. Kindergarten is a monumental milestone in the building of the foundation for a student’s ability to perform proficiently. Our Parents Educators help parents learn to embrace their pivotal role as their child’s “first teacher,” so they can support their child to stay on track with literacy, math and social skills that will be critical as they take on first grade and life. 

Congratulations to the children (and parents) who graduated! We’re grateful to have the opportunity to celebrate this milestone with our client families, even from a distance. For more information about our programs and services, please visit

*Special thanks to Parent Educator Yesenia Gonzalez, who inspired the three parent testimonials included in this piece!

Major funding for the Parents as Teachers program is generously provided by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County,  United Way Suncoast and Florida Blue.