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North Hills

North Hills teachers stress importance of educational bridges

| Sunday, May 13, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Highcliff Elementary kindergarten teacher Amy Bialek teaches students about dry ice during a Bridge Builders workshop.
Kristy Locklin | For the Tribune-Review
Highcliff Elementary kindergarten teacher Amy Bialek teaches students about dry ice during a Bridge Builders workshop.

Pittsburgh is the City of Bridges, but educators in the North Hills School District think it could use a few more.

Bridge Builders is a new program aimed at helping parents understand that they are their child's first educator.

“We're making connections between prenatal care and Grade 3,” said Amy Bialek, a kindergarten teacher at Highcliff Elementary. “Everybody who touches that child's life is their educator. We want to give them the tools to help them teach.”

The program is funded by a $10,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Office for Early Childhood Development received by North Hills teachers who attended the Governor's Institute last year. During the weeklong brainstorming session, teams of educators focused on instructional strategies to promote a comprehensive set of early learning standards and developed an action plan to implement Pre-K to Grade 3 strategies in their districts.

On April 26, current and soon-to-be kindergartners and their parents attended a Kindergarten Date Night at Highcliff. During the event, children rotated through a series of hands-on learning centers located throughout the school while their parents attended informational workshops, including Literacy for Caregivers, Math for Current Kindergartners, Social and Emotional Development, County Library Resources and Growth Mindset.

Parent Jen Jenkins, who has a kindergartner and a fourth-grader, said she attended to help get her younger child prepared for first grade, especially when it comes to sight words, reading and math.

“It's a wonderful program,” she said. A similar event was held in January and the district will host a special welcome party at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum on May 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. for all current and incoming kindergarten families. Students from different elementary buildings throughout the district are encouraged to wear coordinating colors: West View (red), Highcliff (blue), Ross (green) and McIntyre (black). For more information, email Amy Bialek at

Kristy Locklin is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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