By Amanda Roland
Photos Provided By PTA Presidents
The Alachua County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, works tirelessly to make sure our schools, children and parents are taken care of, but how do they do it? Who are the people that make it all happen? Meet some of your Alachua County PTA presidents! On top of being mothers, having full-time jobs and caring for their families, these super women also manage to keep our schools vibrant and moving forward. These are just three examples of the fantastic local PTA presidents that lead our schools in being the best they can be.
Meet Kathy Anderson
Kathy has been a PTA member since her daughter was in kindergarten. That’s seven years of dedication to the PTA, before becoming president of the Steven Foster Elementary PTA, two years ago. She decided that she wanted to become president after attending one of the PTA meetings and realizing that there was a lot that needed to be done –and she felt like she could do it.
“My husband jokingly was like ‘don’t go to that meeting and come back as president’,” Kathy said, “and that’s exactly what I said when I walked through the door, ‘I think I’m going to have to become president.’”
After becoming president, Kathy hit the ground running by attending the Florida PTA Convention, and learning about the National PTA School of Excellence recognition, a two- year recognition that supports a specific school in whatever initiative they choose. With hard work from the PTA, Kathy was able to win the recognition for her school in 2018. She
saw a need in her school and chose to use the help from the recognition to improve the arts at Steven Foster, something that was limited to an art and music class. Kathy’s mission was to see more clubs focusing on the arts and more art brought into her school as a whole. She collaborated with the University of Florida Preforming Arts to have a violinist come and let students experience a different kind of music, and she created a way for students to have an art fair at the end of the year. Kathy even took it upon herself to go in the halls of Steven Foster every week and update the bulletin boards with colorful inspirational quotes, welcoming signs and even art requested by the students.
“I take student requests,” she said. “It’s really fun to see students when they walk by and ask me to draw ‘Up’ or something and then be surprised by it.” Kathy quickly realized that the PTA has a huge say in the community and the school, and that it’s more than just fundraises and bake sales.
“What I want people to start thinking about when they see PTA is more of us advocating for the students and bringing programs into the school, as opposed to just volunteers who fundraise,” she said.
Kathy is continuing to serve as the PTA president at Steven Foster, and she says she loves it. In the coming year, she plans to continue to promote the arts at her school to see Steven Foster grow as an artistic and creative school.
Meet Teresa Ferguson
Teresa was elected PTA president of Gainesville High School in June 2017, and before becoming president, she served as PTA treasurer. She loves her role as president because it grants her the opportunity to support local education, which is always one of the main missions of the PTA.
For Teresa, it’s a family affair. Teresa’s mother was a teacher for 30 years, so she has grown up seeing the impact that education has on students and families. She says that she loves being near her daughter whenever she has the opportunity on campus, and being able to organize events for the community and see wonderful parents get involved is what keeps her going.
Currently, Teresa and her team are getting ready for the spring. They are preparing criteria and raising funds for awarding faculty grants and scholarships for the seniors. As always, an ongoing responsibility is supporting student activities through volunteer coordination.
“Juggling the responsibilities is an ongoing journey,” Teresa said.
By working from home, Teresa is able to coordinate volunteering around work during the day, and she says she is fortunate enough to have the PTA Board by her side to share the load –especially when she speaks up and asks for help. She knows that it is all a team effort all for the good of the school, and planning ahead and having ongoing communication with GHS administrators makes everything run smoothly. She also owes a lot to her family, who is with her every step so she can accomplish all that she needs to advocate for her school and students.
Hundreds of other PTA volunteers humbly offer up their time and talents to make sure that our schools and students have what they need to achieve great success. Their work is commendable, and the reward is seeing schools and students reach the same goal of growth. A round of applause for the Alachua County PTA!
Meet Tristine Birk
Prior to becoming PTA president at C.W. Norton Elementary two years ago, Tristine served as PTA secretary. Tristine works hard to assist her school while working as an assistant nurse manager and a mother to two children. In between all of her responsibilities, she somehow finds a way to do things like assist the school with the purchase of new playground equipment, plan a spring carnival, reopen the school’s greenhouse and get a team of volunteers together to beautify the school. It is a labor of love for Tristine, and all of her hard work does not go unrecognized.
Tristine says that her work as PTA president has taught her so much about the Exceptional Student Education program (ESE), and the need to advocate for all students no matter their circumstances. The PTA provides her with the tools she needs to develop and execute advocacy workshops for the school and other Alachua County families to spread this mindset with the community.
When it comes to getting it all done, Tristine has mastered her juggling act. Because of her demanding job, she has to be creative and use her time after work hours to get things done. From answering emails during basketball games, and connecting with parents after Girl Scouts meetings, to organizing projects after her two children go to bed, she always manages to get it done. However, she wouldn’t be able to do it without the help and dedication from the whole PTA board.
“I wouldn’t be a successful president if I wasn’t surrounded by an amazing team of parents, teachers, and neighboring PTA officers who are willing to pitch in and help,” she said. “I know that you are only as strong as your weakest link, but I have a superb PTA board, and that means the world to me.”