Healthy Kids = Better Learners

AmyMoyerHealthy kids are better learners. Seems like common sense, right?

As director of field operations for Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK), a nonprofit organization that works with schools to fight childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity, I hear this observation echoed every day by teachers, principals and others on the front lines at schools across the country. And as a mom of two and an officer of my daughter’s parent group, I see it play out in my own kids’ classrooms.

Yet a staggering one-third of our nation’s schoolchildren are overweight or obese, putting them not only at an increased risk for a variety of health complications and chronic diseases, but also at a disadvantage in the classroom.

Like our partners at National PTA, AFHK believes that this statistic is both alarming and unacceptable. Fortunately, solutions are within reach, and they’re documented in our new report, The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids Are Healthy and Ready to Learn. The report, a follow-up to our 2004 landmark report, The Learning Connection: The Value of Improving Nutrition and Physical Activity in Our Schools, is a roadmap for educators, school administrators, parents and school volunteers to create healthier school environments. Here are just a few highlights:

  • Students who attend schools that integrate student wellness are likely to have fewer absences, higher academic achievement and self-esteem, and are more likely to graduate from high school.
  • Kids who get regular physical activity experience improvements in their fitness levels and brain function. Just walking or biking to school, for example, can prime the brain for learning.
  • A review of 50 studies points to growing research that reveals that skipping breakfast hurts kids’ overall cognitive performance, which has a negative impact on their levels of alertness, attention, memory, problem-solving and math skills. By contrast, students who eat school breakfast have been shown, on average, to attend 1.5 more days of school per year and score 17.5 percent higher on standardized math tests.
  • Schools can get a financial boost by offering students more nutritious meals and snacks, because when given the option, students will buy and eat healthier foods and beverages.

Read the full Learning Connection report here, and take AFHK’s Every Kid Healthy Pledge to learn how you can be a positive force for change in your school community to ensure that every child is healthy and ready to learn.

Amy Moyer is director of field operations for Action for Healthy Kids, the nation’s leading nonprofit and volunteer network fighting childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can live healthier lives.

Take 25: A Child Safety Campaign

Take25Join the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in promoting its premier child safety education campaign, Take 25. The Campaign encourages parents and guardians, educators, law-enforcement officers, and other trusted adults to take 25 minutes to talk to children about safety. NCMEC developed the Campaign seven years ago to spread awareness of the issues surrounding missing children beyond May 25th, National Missing Children’s Day. The Campaign, which spans from April 1 through June 15, encourages local organizations around the country to host safety events and distribute resources to promote adults having safety conversations with children.


How can YOU get involved in the Take 25 Campaign?

  • Host a child safety event at your child’s school to encourage conversations about these important safety issues
  • Distribute free literature at an event (i.e. a 5K run or safety fair) being hosted in your community
  • Deliver the Take 25 parent presentation during a local PTA meeting
  • Pledge to take 25 minutes to talk to your children about safety and participate in the Hours Challenge
  • Follow @iTake25 on Twitter and Instagram and “like us” on Facebook
  • Sign up for the Take 25 e-newsletter

If you need additional information about how to get involved, please visit or send an email to

If You Only Had More Volunteers…

Cynthia_DamourIf you are a like many volunteer leaders, you may have challenges recruiting volunteers and keeping them around. It can be frustrating, slow work down – and totally increase the amount you personally have to do.

So what’s going on? Why aren’t people stepping up to help? Don’t they get that the work you do helps their kids?

Here’s a crazy truth…

In the US, about one in four American adults volunteer – across every generation. So the problem isn’t that people have totally stopped volunteering.

The problem is parents have lots of other choices on how to spend their time.

They may decide to support their kids through soccer, scouts or time shuttling their children to a variety of other activities. They may feel like they work so much, down time is better spent with family than helping the PTA. They may be struggling to pay their bills and working extra hours to make ends meet.

So what’s a leader to do when parents keep saying they “don’t have time”?

 How do you run a PTA without volunteers?

 First of all, take a deep breath. There is a way around this.

You just need to make volunteering with you an opportunity of choice.

 Guilt and threats don’t make parents show up.

Making volunteering for you irresistible is the way to create a team of active volunteers.

Not sure how to do that?

No worries. I can teach you.

My name is Cynthia D’Amour. I’m a third-generation volunteer leader.

I’ve helped tens of thousands of volunteer leaders transform themselves into leaders today’s volunteers want to help.

And I will teach you how to do the same when you attend my plenary session at the NPTA Convention on Thursday June 20th at 2:30 PM.

  •  You are going to learn how to turn “I don’t have time” into “I can’t wait to volunteer for you!”
  • You’ll be able to recruit volunteers with ease – and keep them too.

It gets even better.

My programs are always hands-on, tons of fun AND you’ll learn simple how-to steps you can take right away!

If you want to grow your team of active volunteers, you need to be in my session.

See you in Cincinnati!

Leadership strategist Cynthia D’Amour, MBA is the president of People Power Unlimited. She’s also the author of seven books How to Turn Generation Me Into Active Members of Your Association. Cynthia has served more than 67 total years on boards and recruited more than 250 members. Cynthia specializes in working with associations that want to get more volunteers involved and leaders who want to achieve outrageous success. For a sneak peak at some how-to articles by Cynthia, go to

Diversity Today—Being More Inclusive Tomorrow For Schools, Parents, Kids and PTA

Plenary Session at the 2013 Annual National PTA Convention


VelasquezSchools, PTA boards, students, parents, teachers – we all struggle with diversity and diversity issues yet we don’t define it.  How can you value or manage or leverage diversity when we don’t even agree on a common definition.  As President of Diversity Training Group, LLC, of Herndon, VA, I will tell you this lack of knowledge or understanding of what exactly diversity is today – it is “What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know!”

I will present a common, universal, practical and working definition of diversity and inclusion.  You will see the link between diversity and inclusion and school performance.  As your instructor and facilitator I will get us all on the same page.  Then we will discuss national and local best practices.  This session will be highly interactive and comes complete with practical and effective take aways.  As your speaker, I will give every person my Power Point Presentation so they can take the Power Point them home, back to their schools and school districts.  In support of National PTA, I have presented workshops in over a dozen states now and my work is spreading from Florida and Georgia to New Mexico and Utah to Indiana and Virginia State PTAs.

Come experience a workshop lead by me, an expert diversity trainer and faciliator and you will never be in denial again about what is diversity, why is it important and what can we do as a PTA Board or a School or as a School District.  I spoke at our National Legislative Conference last year, I have lead webinars for National PTA on conflict resolution and spoke at the PTA Emerging Minority Leaders Conference several times and I have also partnered with National PTA on their Urban Family Enagement Initiatives.

Mauricio Velasquez, President of DTG is the first born son of immigrant parents and grew up in public schools. Mauricio went on to earn a BA in Economics and Psychology (Double Major) from the University of Virginia and earned his MBA in Human Resource Management from the George Washington University. Mauricio has been in the diversity and inclusion field for over twenty years and he has trained in every state but North Dakota and his work and life have lead him to over 70 countries. Mauricio has trained more than a half million participants in his short career.

Please join Mauricio for an experience, not a lecture, a journey, not an arduous task – a joyous learning adventure! Mauricio makes it real, personal, fun, and enlightening!

Guest Blog from Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton: I Love Teachers

Reading Rainbow - LeVar BurtonI love teachers! Teachers are generally some of my favorite people. Mostly because they understand fully well the value of making an investment in another human being! Also because I believe that a passionate teacher has the power to literally change the world by simply sharing that passion with his or her students. The “teaching gene” as I like to call it, seems to run in my family; my elder sister, my son and two nieces are all educators, so I feel I come by that tendency honestly.

My mother, Erma Gene Christian, was a teacher of English at the High School level until I came into the world and subsequently, she became my first teacher. It is because of her that I love books and reading the way I do. In fact, the primary reason I accepted the offer to host Reading Rainbow was a way of honoring my mother.  One of my most indelible memories as a child is that of my mother’s nightstand overflowing with stacks and stacks of books. Throughout my childhood, mom always had several books going simultaneously, switching from one to the other seamlessly, deriving pleasure from each turn of the page, no matter what the genre. That was a curious characteristic of my mom’s reading habits, and I have never known my mother to not finish a book that she has begun. Her tenacity as a reader is only outmatched by her voraciousness and an eternal quest for variety in what she reads. Additionally, as we were growing up, my mother not only read to my sisters and me, she also read in front of us. Then as well as now, my mother’s favorite activity is curling up with a good book.

It occurs to me that I probably learned everything I need to know in life from observing my mother’s reading habits. These days I look to match up the things people say, with the things those same people do. All of my life, in countless conversations, my mother stressed the importance of my applying myself to the best of my ability and getting a good education, all the while relentlessly pursuing her own path to knowledge. I learned the value of variety in one’s life and the joy of spending at least some time each day doing what one loves. Finally, I learned that one does not quit what one begins, be it books, or projects, or people.

These days, Erma Gene can still be found curling up with a good book but more likely than not, that book is on her Kindle Fire or iPad mini, because like her son; my mother doesn’t care what the delivery system is, as long as she has the space and grace in her life to read.

Thanks MOM, for the lessons…

And a very Happy Mother’s Day to you all… But you don’t have to take my word for it!

LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow continue their 30 year mission of inspiring kids to read.

Try the Reading Rainbow App Free for unlimited reading with hundreds of quality books and all new video field trips on the iPad and Kindle Fire. You can also download any of the Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or on Amazon Prime. To learn more about Reading Rainbow’s new digital products visit


Making Connections for Healthier Young People

SAMHSANearly 20 percent of young adults ages 18 to 25 in the U.S. had a mental health condition in the past year. Of these young adults, more than 1.3 million had a disorder so serious that their ability to function was compromised. More than a third of those 1.3 million young adults also have a substance use disorder. Mental health and substance use problems affect millions of Americans, and recently have received a lot of attention from media and politicians. I’m encouraged by the discussions that have started taking place to help promote positive mental health for everyone.

Today is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) annual observance to raise awareness that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development from birth. The goals of Awareness Day align with the PTA’s goal of making every child’s potential a reality, and we are pleased that the PTA is a strong supporter of Awareness Day and the National Dialogue on Mental Health—a nationwide conversation that seeks to increase awareness about the early signs of mental health issues, promote conversations about mental and emotional health, and help individuals access appropriate and effective services and supports. These conversations provide opportunities for people to learn more about mental health, share their stories of hope and recovery, ask for help if needed and support one another.

This year, Awareness Day’s national focus is on the importance of social connectedness—a sense of community—that is needed to build resilience in young adults with mental health and substance use disorders between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. We know that through community-based services and connections developed with caring adults, young people can thrive at home, at school, and in the community. We also know that young adults who form positive connections with supportive adults do better in school, are less likely to have interactions with law enforcement and report fewer substance use issues.

Schools are one of the primary settings where mental health problems can be identified. What may appear initially as poor efforts in the classroom or delinquent behavior after school may actually be an undiagnosed mental health need. And while we know peer support is critical, so is having caring, concerned adults in young people’s lives.

Bringing your school community together through what we call a “community conversation” can connect educators and parents in ways that strengthen opportunities for young people to thrive.

I want to thank you for all the work you do to educate and care for the children and youth of America.  Mental health is an essential part of overall health, and when a child or youth is mentally healthy they are more equipped to learn and reach their full potential.  I hope you will consider making a community conversation happen in your school community to talk about ways to promote and support mental health. Then develop a connection with a young person with mental health or substance use problems for a day—or a lifetime. Your support can help them develop the skills they need to become independent and successful adults.

Learn more about Awareness Day and how you can be an adult ally for a young person at

Thank You: An Open Letter to Teachers

Copyright 2012 Lifetouch National School Studios IncTeaching is a tiring, often thankless job. You work long hours, face immense pressures, and often invest your own salary back into the classroom. But your efforts and dedication to our children have not gone unnoticed.

We want to thank you for all that you do, both in the classroom and on your own time, to ensure the success of all children. You press on far beyond the school bell that signals the end of the day, and you serve as tutors, mentors, and coaches during evenings and weekends.

From all of us—the students, families and school administrators that make up the PTA—thank you for your commitment to building strong family-school partnerships and to making every child’s potential a reality!

In honor of your service, we have dedicated the first full week of May to you—PTA Teacher Appreciation Week—and encouraged your students’ families to express their gratitude for the sacrifices and support you offer each and every day. We have also devoted the April/May edition of Our Children magazine to you and created special teacher-focused Pinterest boards with ideas for fun classroom activities and creative lesson plans.

If you are an avid pinner, we invite you to join a community of teachers pinning their favorite activities to the National PTA Pinterest boards. If you are interested, please send your Pinterest user name and a link to your boards to We cannot wait to see and share the many ways that you help your students learn and develop as well as improve their health and safety.

Thank you again for caring for, believing in, and inspiring students and their families year-round. You truly are building our children’s tomorrow in Today’s PTA!

How PTA Members Say Thanks this Teacher Appreciation Week

TAW_What Will You DO_BLOG

Last week, we asked our fans on Facebook what they had up their sleeves for Teacher Appreciation Week. The following is a sampling of their creative and heartfelt responses. Needless to say, a lot of teachers are in for a treat!

Rose Alaniz Palacios: Our staff is treated to daily celebrations the entire week. This year’s theme is “Best Teachers in the World.” Each day of the week will have a specific country with food from that country provided in the lounge, plus there will be a corresponding activity for the kids to do. For example, one day is Italy: That’s Amore. Italian food is served and the students will write “love” notes to the teachers. One day is China: Teachers will have lunch catered from a local Asian restaurant and the students will each write fortunes for the teachers. The final day is Americana and the teachers can enjoy the Fruits of Their Labor: students have the opportunity to bring in a piece of fresh fruit for their teachers that day and American food will be provided in the lounge. Each staff member also has their door or office decorated by the Room Reps and students, revolving around the Best in the World Theme.

Kathie Kitron Green: My favorite day is “Thank You Thursday” – we distribute thank you postcards to students, parents, teachers and staff and collect them for 10 days and then will distribute them on May 9th. The cost to our PTSA is a couple reams of cardstock, the good will it creates…priceless.  Staff loves the notes they get and it builds on itself – when you get a thank you note, you’re more apt to send one out and thank someone else. I LOVE the spirit this creates!

Laura Kelly Bowman: At Green Valley Elementary in Roanoke, VA we’re planning a whole week of surprises for the school staff and our theme is, “You’re Our Heroes”. Today we hung up 425 paper cutouts on our “Hero Wall” in the entrance to the school for the staff to see on Monday. The kids wrote down why they think the staff is heroes on the cutouts, and their sentiments just couldn’t be more poignant and sweet. What a lift it will give to our staff!

Shalin Hassie: I have been doing this for the past few years and it’s always a hit. Each day I will send something different for my son’s teachers, starting out with flowers to keep in the classroom all week, then a basket of sweet & salty snacks, next day a basket full of classroom supplies, then to end the week with a nice personal gift of some sort (coffee/tea gift, spa gift cards, nice blanket/throw, lotion sets, etc…) Attach a little note signed by your child each day for a more personal touch.

Kelly Wadley Duggan: We celebrate our teachers/staff every day that week, but my favorite is “Souper hero Tuesday”. We’ll be bringing in a can of soup to donate to a local food bank in our teacher’s name. Of course, they’ll get yummy cupcakes in the lounge to remind them we know their super power is teaching.

 Theresa Vance Curtis: Today we started the day with a snack of Oreos shaped like apples, candy apples, and their menu for the week in the mailboxes. All of the teachers and staff walked into the school to find their doors decorated as well. Our theme is “You Deserve to Relax” so we have small gifts, events and meals set up for the week to reflect our theme. So far the doors were a big hit!

Tara Bryan Hudgins: Taters for Teachers SPUD Bar on Friday! They loved it last year.

Kathy Barton Goldstein : We give the teachers and all staff little goodies throughout the week and then we have a big luncheon for them on Friday. On luncheon day, we have parent volunteers take over recess duty so the staff can enjoy lunch together!

Pam Trostle: Laurel Elementary PTA hosted Teacher Appreciation Luncheons, as well as providing them with snacks all week long. We collect prizes donated by local businesses for door prize giveaway during their lunch. We also gave a gift for each staff member from PTA. I personally made monogram note cards for my son’s teachers as a thank you gift from our family. We love our teachers!!

Thank a Teacher Contest: Express Your Gratitude during PTA Teacher Appreciation Week

Thank a teacher for their dedication to Common Core State Standards and your local PTA could win $500 to host a teacher appreciation luncheon!

ThankaTeacherContest_BLOGToday kicks off PTA Teacher Appreciation Week – a week where families and schools around the country give thanks for all that teachers do. Teachers make an indelible mark on the lives of their students – from inspiring a lifelong love of reading, to sparking a curiosity that leads to a future career path, to imparting the importance of service to one’s community.

Teachers should know that their work is valued. That is why National PTA encourages families to write to teachers and thank them for their efforts and dedication. Specifically, National PTA urges all PTA members to write a letter of thanks to math and English teachers who are in the process of implementing the new Common Core State Standards. These math and English standards are providing a consistent and clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so students are ready for college and career regardless of their zip code.

Here’s how you can participate and potentially win $500 for a teacher appreciation luncheon at your school, courtesy of the GE Foundation.

  1. Send a letter thanking a teacher for his/her work implementing Common Core State Standards.
  2. Send a copy of your letter to
  3. Include your contact information and the name of your local PTA.
  4. Each letter will be entered into a drawing, where ten local PTA winners will receive $500 to host a teacher appreciation lunch honoring the teacher(s) and PTA letter writer.

Be sure to read the full contest rules or download a template thank you letter before you enter for your chance to win.

For more information and resources for PTA Teacher Appreciation Week, visit

Lee Ann Kendrick is the Regional Advocacy Specialist for National PTA.

PTA Accomplishments in a Word (Cloud)

Yesterday, on the National PTA Facebook page, we asked our friends, “What was your PTA’s proudest accomplishment this school year?” We received a wide range of enthusiastic responses from PTA members making a difference in their communities.  The following is a summary of responses, in word cloud form. Thanks to all those who participated!  (Click on the image below to enlarge) WORDLE2