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Educator, mother author book and blog
'Sincerely, The Teacher ...' recently released
Second-graders, from left, Heather Bowman and Katie Clark look at a vinegar and baking soda science experiment during a recent class at Brookwood Elementary. Their teacher, Tiffany Andrews, recently authored a book for parents. - photo by Autumn McBride

Tiffany Andrews has 20 students in her second-grade class -- and even more adults.

The Brookwood Elementary School teacher likes to open up the school year by having initial parent-teacher conferences to get better acquainted with the families in her room.

"I left feeling like there was so much more that I wanted to say," Andrews said. "We only have 30 minutes with them. It wasn't enough."

On that day, Andrews got the idea to write it all down.

She called her mother, also a teacher, and the two began work on a book for parents.

Flash forward three years and the two women have just released the book, "Sincerely, The Teacher: The Top 10 Things Teachers Want Parents to Know."

The book pairs with an interactive blog where parents and teachers can share experiences and ask questions.

Their site has garnered a surprising following, Andrews said, and they have drawn some media attention.

The book took a while to complete, she said, since mother and daughter had time to work on it only during their summers and holidays.

To gather as much consensus as possible, they sent out surveys to teachers nationwide, asking them what one thing they would like to tell parents to help their children succeed.

Andrews' mother, Becky Saarela, said it wasn't hard to pull a top 10 list from their own experiences and the responses.

"The teachers all were so in unison about what they wanted parents to know and what would help them know how to help their children succeed," she said.

Saarela added that a top 10 was compiled to keep the tips simple for busy parents.

Of all the advice, Andrews said she most liked the idea that graduation starts in kindergarten.

That doesn't mean that children need to start worrying about grades and clubs at that age, she said, but rather to build the mind-set that education is a "privilege and a responsibility."

Parents are a large part of instilling that importance into their children, Andrews said.

To keep parents involved, Andrews said she often drops them a line or a phone call.

"As time consuming as it is, it's so worth it," she said.

Andrews and her mother each expressed a desire to shape the future of education.

Though she doesn't have much power to influence national laws, Andrews said the one thing she can do is work with the parents.

"They are the common denominators," she said. "[The students] are going to get a new teacher next year."

Her mother pointed out that the goal of both parent and teacher is to see the child succeed, though they can help him or her in different ways.

Having been both a parent and a teacher, Saarela was able to bring in her experiences from "both sides of the table" to the book.

As a high school teacher, primarily to seniors at Dunwoody High School, Saarela said she and her daughter were able to explore the spectrum of parent involvement in schools.

"Parenting changes as a child grows up," she said. "As they get into the high school years, the parent still needs to be there ... but they're not quite as involved with projects and doing things. The child is much more independent."

In reading the book, Andrews said she hopes parents first and foremost will draw encouragement, since the two used only positive examples of parents.

Teaching in a top Georgia school system, she said, didn't hurt her research.

"Since I'm in Forsyth County, we have so many amazing parents," she said. "I have so many examples of what to do."