Tag Archives: Facebook

Mother ignites movement, remains Parents as Teachers advocate

Michael, Michelle, Willow and Hayden

by Jacob Kirn

Michelle Gieselman is a mother of three in the Kansas City area. In 2009, she launched a Facebook page fighting devastating state budget cuts to Parents as Teachers in Missouri. Her efforts helped collect almost 16,000 followers and created awareness for a rally at the capitol in Jefferson City.

Q: How did you first hear about Parents as Teachers?

I was 17 when I had my first son Michael. My high school had a nursery for its teen moms and we had to take a parenting class to be able to use it. A Parents as Teachers educator came in to speak. She was wonderful and I started seeing her for home visits.

Q: What was it about that experience that made you an advocate of the program?

When Michael was 6 months old, he wasn’t doing a lot. I thought it was normal because he was just a baby. I didn’t realize he should have been pushing his arms up and holding his upper torso up. My parent educator showed me that, and it allowed me to have a more meaningful conversation with my pediatrician.

Q: What happened when you heard about the potential budget cuts to Parents as Teachers?

I was seven months pregnant with my daughter. I was watching the news and I saw the story so I called Martha (her parent educator) and asked her if she was going to lose her job. She didn’t know. But she said people should contact their state representatives and the governor. So I started the Facebook page. By the third day, there were over 1,000 followers.

Q: Did it have an impact?

It really spread the news. I think people didn’t realize education would be cut, and that Parents as Teachers would be affected. I said, ‘If you participate in this program, you need to speak out! We don’t want this to go away.’ Parents as Teachers educators are the most wonderful people and our children are the future. The more we do what’s right for them now, the better off we’ll all be in the long run.

Gieselman’s Facebook page remains active and is now jointly administered with the national Parents as Teachers office. Last year, because of its size, it transitioned from a group to a fan page. It provides news updates and an outlet for parents to share stories and communicate. This year, about $3 million in funding has been restored to Parents as Teachers by the Missouri General Assembly.

Jacob Kirn is a journalism major at University of Missouri-Columbia and an intern at Parents as Teachers.

What’s in your tool belt?

One of the pleasures of social media is getting to know new people you would not otherwise connect with. But it’s particularly nice to meet them in person. So when Hildy Gottlieb of Creating the Future came to St. Louis in November to speak to the Parents as Teachers family, we finally met face-to-face.

Wow! I was so impressed by her deep understanding of the nonprofit world and struck by her insight: the reason dramatic social change fails to happen is because people working in this sector don’t know the basics of how to do that work effectively. When they do have those tools, the change happens almost effortlessly.

Suzanne Tucker and Ria Sharon  (aka ZenMommy and PracticalMommy at MyMommyManual) are two more social media connections who’ve become “real” to me since meeting face-to-face.

They’re offering nonprofits like Parents as Teachers programs tools to work more effectively via social media. “For nonprofits and business owners, the power of Facebook offers an opportunity to change the world…to find and engage supporters and customers, conduct ‘friendraising’ campaigns, and spread awareness.”

Do you have the right tools to effect the social change you want?
If not, what will you do differently this year?


It takes a lot to move me to tears, but after reading the posts on the Facebook fan page (SAVE MO Parents as Teachers program), I pulled out the tissues. This grassroots group grew from nothing to more than 5,000 in one short week after Missouri Governor Nixon put the state’s flagship program on the budget chopping block to the tune of 28%. Never have I experienced such swift, strong and vocal support as these parents have for Parents as Teachers in Missouri!

Nancy: “We all know times are tough everywhere. But there are priorities that must be kept! Our children depend on us to be their voices. We can’t let them down. My grown daughters 34 and 30yo were both in the Saturday program. My 3 granchildren attended PAT. Their success in school is thanks to PAT. Our legislators must find other ways to keep this program intact!”

Tracy: “I am very upset that the government says that they are not cutting education, but they are cutting PAT. I wrote letters to my reps and got no real answers. This program is great for the parents and kids. My love our PAT.”

Leah: “WE LOVE PAT! Our parent educator recognized some speech issues with out son at 2 years. He’s going to be starting Kindergarten this fall and thanks to her referrals, his speech is NORMAL! He won’t be behind the other kids in his class! Such a huge relief to our family!”

Jan: “Absolutely one of the MOST worthwhile programs Missouri has EVER had. I can’t believe anyone in government would remotely think of not FULLY funding this critical program. Give me a break. . .with all the “pork” in the budgets. . .get rid of the “pork” and keep the valuable programs such as PAT. Unbelieveable, absolutely unbelieveable!”

Leigh: “I made the call. As the parent of a 28 week preemie, I cannot imagine how much harder it would have been to get through those first crucial years without the help and guidance of PAT. The early intervention they provide is priceless. I started tearing up as I left the message and my daughter, now 10, asked me why.”

Mike: “What is this world amounting too. I’m sure there are many teen parents and adult parents that don’t have anyone equipped to provide them with the skills they may not have already! I am sick of hearing excuses of why we can’t provide for the most unfortunate people in society while politicians and lobbyist roll over…in greed. I mean really, can’t we do with one less street sign, or one less missle, or one less politician! As a parent of an autistic child especially I believe our childrens future and the way we equip them along with ourselves is paramount.”

Elly: “I called and left a message for the governor. They might save money in the very short run but it will be very costly for our future.”

Jill: “I don’t have any children but my friend and her family goes to the events all the time. They are on a tight buget and this is the only time the kids and their mom get out together. The buget cuts are getting out of control.”

Terri: “Thank goodness for Parents as Teachers. They really helped me when my boys were young! I am an only child that never babysat….so children were a real mystery. My Parent Educator was wonderful, experienced, informative and patient!”

Kimberly: “I have 2 kids ~ one has autism. It was our parent educator that was able to idetify his ASD when everyone else (even us) thought he was developing typically. I am forever grateful to this program. It breaks my heart to think another family would have to go YEARS w/o help before their child could identified has having issues.”

I don’t know how you ignore 5,367 people. Maybe Missouri’s legislators do?

(Note: these comments are verbatim from the Facebook fan page; the only edits have been to remove some of the multiple exclamation points!)

Communicating the Social Networking Way

I’ve jumped into the sea of social networking. It didn’t take much effort on the part of Pat Simpson, Marketing/Communications Director at the National Center to entice me into the water. What can I say, new and cutting edge things excite me. I started with blogging which I enjoy and plan to make more time to do. A few months ago I created a Facebook page. This mortified my kids (my oldest says he’ll be my friend when he leaves for college.) I will admit, FB is addicting, so much so the application is downloaded on my cell phone! I watched as my friend list to grew…..high school classmates, college roommates, sorority sisters, friends from church, even adult cousins I haven’t spoken with in years! How cool is that! Recently I’ve added Twitter to my networking tools and boy, do I feel like I’m on the frontage road watching a fast and scary freeway. There is still so much I have to learn.

Through all of this, some questions keep swirling in my mind.
• When does social networking really pay off?
• How can we embrace this new technology here at Parents as Teachers?
• Should anybody really care what my “status” says?
• Did I really want to know this much about acquaintances?
• Are we turning into a society that communicates in 120 characters or less?
• Is “tweeting” considered real communication?
• What’s the line between personal and professional on these sites?
• Can connecting (or reconnecting for that matter) on social networking sites actually deepen relationships?
• How much is too much?

Despite these questions, I’m hooked! In just a few short months, I’ve seen the power of the network. My most recent example happened last weekend. My son wanted to go purchase a particular Civil War DVD. I told him to hold off while I went on FB. I knew that one of my friends is a Civil War buff and he talked about this video in a post some time ago. I logged on and asked if we could borrow it. He responded he wasn’t home at the time (ah ha, another mobile FB user) but to stop by in an hour. Within a total of 90 minutes, we were home watching the DVD. That’s an example of social networking.

What are your success stories? What’s got you thinking? Have you jumped in the water yet?

Become a fan of the National Center for Parents as Teachers on Facebook. We’d love to connect with you!

Parenting by Facebook

Is there value in Facebook for organizations like Parents as Teachers? As the National Center plans a conference later this year that looks to the future of parenting, one of the issues that keeps surfacing is the disconnect between time-honored face-to-face communication and the burgeoning social networks like Facebook.


Certainly there’s unprecedented value for young parents in having that in-person connection with someone they trust, whether that person is mom, grandma, a friend who’s already ‘been there’ or a trained parent educator. But is there value in developing social connections through vehicles like Facebook to share parenting advice and inspiration?


Erin, a young Parents as Teachers mom I spoke to recently, told me that while she appreciates the group meeting announcements and fliers about local events her parent educator gives her, she would rather toss them all and find the information in an online calendar. When she’s looking for places to go and things to do with her kids a paper handout is not her first resource; the Internet is. Another mom, Christi, echoes her technology plea. “I work, so when my parent educator leaves a voicemail at home that she’s rescheduling a visit I don’t get it until I get home. I much prefer to communicate with parent educators and teachers by e-mail that I can access throughout the day.”


For parent support organizations who are nimble enough to keep up, this offers new options as well as cost savings. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, social network usage among adults is booming. Will Parents as Teachers programs and parent educators be able…and willing…to keep up?