Carmen Aja agrees with Robert Fulghum, who wrote the popular book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Carmen is employed as a parent liaison at the Mary D Lang Kindergarten Center in Kennett Square. She is a true family advocate and works diligently to assure the transition from home to school and the kindergarten year is a positive experience for both the parents and the child.
Some of the lessons from kindergarten that Carmen believes the students will learn is respect for others; listening; learning how to take turns; following directions; and being part of a team. They also learn to share, clean up their mess; hold someone’s hand when crossing the street; and balance fun and work activities, which also may include a nap every day. Kindergarten is a major step in learning how to live by guiding principles.
Carmen Aja, with a degree in biochemistry, came to the United States in 2002 when her husband, who is a chemical engineer was transferred with the Dupont Company from Mexico City, Mexico. They moved to Kennett because they believed that the Kennett School District was the best in the area for their son and daughter.
Carmen agrees that their son, a recent college graduate, received an outstanding education--academics, extracurricular activities, and multicultural environment at Kennett, and their daughter received excellent supportive services for her special needs.
Carmen decided to find employment in the human service field, when she moved to this area, and first found work as an interpreter in schools and at Early Intervention. She was happy to transition from interpreter to her current school district role of parent liaison, which includes not only Mary D Lang families, but the three Kennett elementary schools and the middle school.
The language barrier is probably the most difficult challenge for parents with children attending school for the first time. Carmen speaks their language and teaches them the protocols they need to follow.
She finds that some of the cultures that she serves do not hold education as a high priority. So, beyond being a liaison, Carmen is a strong champion of education and its importance in getting ahead in life. And, yes that includes parents signing up for ESL classes and available preschool opportunities.
Throughout the year, Carmen is brought in to communicate with families if children are having issues in the classroom. Carmen reflects, “Many times there is something challenging happening at home and the children are ‘acting out’ at school. It is so important to build a relationship with the family and also be a resource for making referrals for any supports the family needs. We work at building a safe and happy environment at Mary D Lang and many times I think these are the happiest hours of a child’s life.”
Carmen continues, “It is so rewarding to work with our Spanish-speaking families. You can see how much they have to learn to become a part of this culture. Most parents are eager to better understand how to help their children and will attend meetings and conferences when requested.
I don’t let them off the hook, yet understand the challenge of entering another culture. “I tell them, ‘You need to learn the practices of this American culture while you still keep and teach your kids the values from your culture.”
The Kennett School District emphasizes the importance of parents’ involvement in their child’s education. With the Skyward software program, a parent can access grade information on their students at any time.
And, with cell phones, many parents are happy to have this direct link to the school. Carmen encourages parents to use this helpful tool and discuss the progress or concerns with their students on a regular basis.
Carmen Aja has been a participant in the Kindergarten Readiness Project these past two years. This grassroots effort works at helping families become actively involved in their child’s learning from birth onward. Carmen is definitely an important contributor to this group and when she says, “Anything I can do to help, please let me know,” she means it! Carmen learned her lessons in kindergarten well!