These Virginia Beach teachers see major benefits in visiting their students at home ahead of the new school year

Laura Chapman visits her student, Cason Fears, during Rosemont Elementary's home visit day before the first day of school. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Cari Hall)
Laura Chapman visits her student, Cason Fears, during Rosemont Elementary School’s home visit day before the first day of school. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Cari Hall)

VIRGINIA BEACH — When students at Rosemont Elementary stepped into the classroom Tuesday they didn’t feel as if their parents were leaving them with a stranger — or at least, that’s what teachers hoped was the result after they visited students at their homes ahead of the new school year.

The 60 staff members from Rosemont are the only ones in the district who plan and coordinate a two-hour adventure stopping by to visit all 420 students before their first day each year.

“Every teacher in the building visits every student in their class,” said Cari Hall, principal of Rosemont Elementary.

Hall said seeing the kids ride their bike, doing different activities in their own neighborhoods, or meeting the loved ones who share the home, teaches the staff a lot about a child but also lays a foundation to build necessary relationships with parents.

“It matters that you see where they’re coming from because you’ll know what experiences they’re bringing to you every single day,” said Theresa Holloran, preschool teacher.

Laura Chapman is a third-grade teacher in her second year of making home visits. She said the practice also builds a sense of community.

“Last year when I did it for the first time I was really surprised some of the families would be waiting outside the houses and be talking to each other and the kids would be greeting each other,” Chapman said. “It gives a feeling of an older time when people came together.”

The teachers have been visiting their students’ homes for the last five years, gifting the kids a school t-shirt, book, and a special treat — this year it was Sour Patch Kids with a note that said “don’t let this year go sour.”

Holloran’s preschoolers also received a stuffed animal they could bring with them to ease jitters associated with what may be their first school experiences.

 Hall said “it’s so fun because we’re out there together like butterflies” and noted they added another “treat” this year painting “kindness rocks” and spreading them throughout the neighborhoods they visited.

“We hid them behind trees or mailboxes and put ‘Rosemont Elementary’ on the bottom of them hoping somebody will just stumble upon them one day,” she said.

The relationship with the students is at the core of the faculty’s purpose and, investing the short time it takes to visit “pays off in dividends you would not believe,” Holloran said.

“Just the feeling we take away from it and we know we’re pouring into our families,” Hall said. “By crossing the threshold into their homes just makes that relationship so, so strong, and they trust us.”

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