Spanning more than 100 days, each school year holds many memories for Garland ISD families. Want to know the #bestGISDmoment? The district’s Family and Community Engagement Department (FACE) recently launched a districtwide contest and named the Bejar family from Daugherty Elementary School its winner.
The Bejar family has been a part of the GISD community since 2011, and fifth-grader Sophia has grown up in Emerald Oatis’ special education class.
“It’s not a cookie-cutter type of care that they give to Sophia,” said the 10-year-old’s mother, Christine. “It’s tapered to her needs. With her being autistic, I’ve pretty much felt that all her needs are being met— especially with Ms. Oatis’ class.”
During Family Engagement Month this November, FACE challenged contest participants to draw their #bestGISDmoment and then describe it with a caption. Christine entered as a tribute to Sophia, drawing a diverse group of people and turning the word autism into an acronym. It included the words acceptance, uniqueness, teamwork, inclusion, support and memories.
“At home, we bond together by drawing and coloring,” commented Christine. “Whatever I’ve drawn represents what’s truly in my heart. She’s my purpose. She’s my drive. She’s my inspiration. She’s my motivation.”
The caption described an event that Oatis organizes every year.
“She comes up with this Family Fun Day where all of her students and families come together to celebrate the year end,” detailed Christine. “I’ve never really felt accepted anywhere else, and that’s why I felt that was a good avenue to meet other parents who had kids with autism— to be able to have support and great memories with families with the same condition as ours.”
A nine-year veteran teacher, Oatis never realized the impact of her event. She started Family Fun Day as a simple celebration of her students’ achievement and also an opportunity to say goodbye as they headed into summer.
“We ate, some of the kids swam, they played and the parents got to talk. Ms. Santana also made gift bags for the students to take home,” Oatis explained. “It was not something I even thought would turn into an every year thing. But the next year, people started asking, ‘When are we going to do that again?’”
Oatis now hosts huge crowds every year, including former students and their families. But she never imagined her event would be someone’s #bestGISDmoment.
“It’s encouraging. You don’t always feel the impact that you have,” she said. “To know that those things are appreciated just makes me want to continue to do more.”
This new connection between a parent and teacher is exactly the reason FACE launched its contest. Research shows that when families are engaged in their students’ education, those students do better in school.
“It really takes a village to raise a child,” commented Parent Engagement Facilitator Sofía Nuñez. “To see that families are valuing what our teachers are doing, and that they have strong enough relationships to invite them home and have a party, it’s going beyond what you would think a school-family partnership is. We want to continue celebrating those special moments, and we want families to continue sharing them. The families have hopes and dreams, and when we connect that with the teachers, the impact is even greater.”
For more #bestGISDmoment submissions, search the hashtag on Twitter.