Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education presents $7,500 to Haena Yoo of Gideons Elementary

Gideons_IMG_0204Ms. Haena Yoo, a first grade teacher at Gideons Elementary, was honored before friends, family, colleagues, and her students for her unwavering dedication and exemplary performance in the classroom. Ms. Yoo received a check for $7,500 from Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education (AFAEE).

“I was really surprised, grateful and humbled, because I know there are a lot of great educators out there,” said Yoo. “I feel lucky to have been chosen.”

This money will be utilized to fund a personal stipend, professional development opportunities, and a project of the winner’s choice.  Ms. Yoo has chosen to fund her project, “Project Break the Cycle.”

“The main goal of my project is to educate and empower parents and families of young children ages zero through seven to become advocates for literacy and quality early childhood education,” Ms. Yoo explains.

Through this project, monthly parent workshops and experienced guest speakers will provide parents and families with specific and applicable strategies to support their young children at home.

According to the study, The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3 by Hart and Risley, by the time a child from welfare enters preschool at age 4, he is already too far behind his peers from working-class families that his preschool experience becomes only an “intervention”. The study found that the average child on welfare hears 616 words per hour whereas the average working-class child hears 1,251 words per hour. Furthermore, average children in professional families hear 2,153 words per hour, which is over three times more than a child on welfare.

Ms. Yoo strongly believes that effective parent education can begin to fix this crisis. She hopes to share inexpensive, research-based strategies with parents that will benefit her students through increased vocabulary, self-confidence, and positive relationships with their parents and families. Gideons_IMG_0244

“My project will not only impact students this year, but will also have a long-lasting effect on their lives,” said Ms. Yoo.

Upon receiving a Master of Arts in Teaching in Elementary Education from The Johns Hopkins University in 2011, Ms. Yoo became a 2011 Corps Member of Teach For America – Metro Atlanta. During college, Ms. Yoo explored many options for her future, but she could not seem to find the right profession to which she wanted to commit. Finally, after taking a few sociology classes, which exposed her to the contrasting quality of education children receive due to their income levels, she felt a strong calling to become a teacher. During the next two years, Ms. Yoo worked as an assistant preschool teacher in Georgia and Maryland where she received recognition for going above and beyond her duties such as creating a Facebook page to foster parent-parent and parent-teacher relationships.

Throughout the two years she worked with children, her passion to work in low-income schools grew stronger. In 2010, she applied to The Johns Hopkins University and began training to become a classroom teacher. After two years as a classroom teacher, Yoo continuously seeks opportunities for self improvement and looks forward to many more years working with young children and their parents.

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