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Coyote Canyon teacher uses milk and cookies to share expectations with parents

January 30, 2018 GMT

BULLHEAD CITY — Milk. Cookies. A classic pairing.

But on a recent night at Coyote Canyon Elementary School, the treats shared the bill with communication.

First-grade teacher Ava Smith invited her students’ families in so they could spend time together and so she could share upcoming lessons and expectations for the rest of the school year.

This is the third year of Mrs. Smith’s Milk & Cookies Night. She discussed with parents how their children are progressing, the proper way to complete a homework packet, the importance of daily reading and other topics.

She said that her goal is to have each child end the year reading at 53 words per minute. That’s just a goal, she said, cautioning parents not to get too worried should their kids fall a little short.

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“Not every single child leaves first grade at 53,” she said. “Sometimes, you just have to let it come to the child.”

She urged parents to observe their children’s strengths and weaknesses and focus extra help on the latter.

Smith said that first-graders are starting to get the hang of reading and that their proficiency can be helped greatly through 10 minutes of nightly practice with a parent.

“They’re starting to pick things up,” she said. “Help them where you see they need it,” but encourage their independent reading.

Smith also talked about monthly book orders and said that maybe children can do chores at home to earn money to buy their favorite tomes.

Regardless, she said, over the course of the school year, each child will receive nine or 10 books from her.

“I want to instill in them a love of reading,” Smith said.

After Smith’s presentation to parents, the group broke apart for a project inspired by one of her favorite books, “The Kissing Hand,” by Audrey Penn and Ruth E. Harper.

A parent could select a hand cut out in paper and a decorative heart and create a “kiss” and an “I love you” message for the child to keep in the classroom.

The parent and child were then photographed by music teacher Megan Gibson.

Families also could “go shopping,” from stacks of school supplies Smith had stacked around the room.

John Jones said he came because he wanted to discuss his son’s behavior with Smith. He said Smith’s presentation was revealing, letting him know that John III has more academic skills than he lets on at home.

“It kind of opened my eyes to see what he’s been getting away with,” Jones said. “He’s a lot more capable than he shows at home.”

Smith said that she wanted to share great news with the parents and go over the curriculum, but also had a more personal message to get out.

“They also get to see me in action,” she said. “They get to see my energy and that I really love their children. It’s not a 9-to-5 job for me.”

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