Cedar Shoals staff and students have recently welcomed new Family Communications Specialist Erin Thompson-Podvin to bridge between school and home.
Thompson-Podvin isn’t a new face in the Clarke County School District. She attended Clarke Middle School and graduated from Clarke Central in 1994, but she has a love for both sides of town. Fluent in Spanish, she formerly worked in CCSD from 2003-06 as the district’s Lead Migrant Family Engagement Specialist and then from 2006-07 she worked as the Coordinator for the Even Start Family Literacy Program.
Thompson-Podvin was not looking to come back to CCSD. She was working at the University of Georgia with first-generation college students when former Cedar Shoals Principal Derrick Maxwell informed her about the Family Communications Specialist position.
“We talked about it and it seemed like a new and different challenge from what I was doing, but also similar because I was still getting to work directly with students,” Thompson-Podvin said.
CCSD and most schools across America are shut down right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thompson-Podvin’s and many others’ roles have shifted during this time of crisis. She has been working to help families get resources, food and information — just in a different way. She can’t talk with families face to face anymore, so she is instead sending emails and using social media.
“I send a lot of email updates and have kept publishing the weekly newsletter. I also keep the Cedar Shoals website updated with information that families need to know. Some parents also email me directly, and occasionally I use Google Hangout to call families when we need to make contact,” Thompson-Podvin said.
“Right now, communication is more important than ever. As much as possible, I am working hard to ensure that information is getting to our students and families,” Thompson-Podvin said.
Thompson-Podvin believes that what she learned previously in her former jobs will help her at Cedar. One part of her job that she enjoys is helping those who speak Spanish get the resources they need. She goes on home visits and helps families by talking to them and helping them to get the information or resources they need. She also distributes the weekly newsletters in English as well as Spanish and translates information forms that go home with students into Spanish.
“To be able to still get their point across, or get their needs met or express a concern that they’re having about their child, I love that,” Thomson-Podvin said. “I want folks who come in with different language needs to feel welcomed here.”
Thompson-Podvin also loves the variety of her job, but she said it’s also the most difficult part. Her job is never the same from day to day, so she has to be able to balance many plates.
“I was working on one thing yesterday and then a very timely thing happened and I had to drop what I was doing and go take care of that because it was more important. But then you still have to remember to come back to the other thing,” she said.
Counselor Peggy Johnson says that having Mrs. Thompson-Podvin has helped the counseling department.
“She speaks Spanish, and that helps us a great deal here in counseling. She can talk to some families that we have a hard time communicating with,” Johnson said.
Thompson-Podvin enjoys volunteering, she even worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala.
“I would not be sitting here today talking to you if I had not served in the Peace Corps,” she said. “I was raised in a home where service was very important and giving back to our community was very important, it’s something that was instilled in me. It’s something that my husband and I instill in our children. I think that every person has a duty and a responsibility to the community in which they live.”
Thompson-Podvin didn’t plan on her current career. She studied broadcast journalism in college and worked for CNN in London when she studied abroad there.
“I was fully planning on being a foreign correspondent, that was my long term goal. Then I had a really eye-opening internship experience that showed me that maybe things aren’t always as they seem,” Thompson-Podvin said.