REDMOND —

Identical triplets Jaxson, Mason and Hunter Marcum hadn’t begun kindergarten yet Thursday, but their three new teachers visited their home to meet them that afternoon.

Soon after their teachers — Leigh Anne Jinings, Nichi Eskew and Joel Bleakney — entered the Marcum home in the rural outskirts of Redmond, the triplets’ mother, Deanna Marcum, prompted her 5-year-old sons to give each educator a gift bag filled with school supplies.

The teachers, Marcum and the triplets quickly began to get acquainted. Hunter was eager to show off his smarts to his teacher, Jinings.

“I know my ABCs,” he proudly proclaimed.

“Score! You can be in my class,” Jinings responded.

It was the type of exchange being repeated throughout the Redmond School District this week as hundreds of incoming kindergartners received home visits from their teachers before starting classes next week in the Redmond Early Learning Center.

Desiree Margo, the Early Learning Center’s principal, said the home visits help build relationships between teachers and families and help ease the transition into school for young kids.

“So often, we’re always asking parents to visit schools. But how many opportunities do we have to reduce barriers and say, ‘We’ll come to you?’” Margo said. “We want to say, ‘We want to know you and your family and your child so we can effectively partner with you as we begin the journey of kindergarten for your child.’”

Margo, who’s led the Early Learning Center since it opened in 2016, said she’s had teachers visit families for the past four years. She said it’s up to families to decide where they want to meet — whether that’s their home, a park, a coffee shop or even the school.

“It’s nothing we would ever want to force on families,” she said.

At the home visits, teachers inform the parent or parents about the exact date that their children will start kindergarten — students have a staggered start next week — alongside other information like where to pick up and drop off kids at the school, which school bus the kids will ride, and how to volunteer in the classroom. They’ll discuss the parents’ goals for their kids, as well as the kindergartners’ interests and goals.

But the visits also provide an opportunity for the teachers to help their future students prepare emotionally for a new journey. For example, at her Thursday visit, Eskew handed each of the Marcum triplets a rock with a heart painted on it.

“If you rub it and rub it, it rubs all your worries away,” she told them.

According to Margo, when students become more comfortable with their teachers, they’ll be more successful in class.

“Kids don’t learn from teachers they don’t like,” she said. “Our students start the year with more confidence because they’ve gotten to know the teachers.”

In the past, Redmond’s elementary schools would set up appointments for families to visit their school. Teachers would meet the family there, and then the child would take a lengthy assessment to find out what they know going in.

Margo said she felt sparking a teacher-student connection before giving students an assessment was a better plan.

“The first interaction with the families was finding out what the child knows,” she said. “That doesn’t develop a relationship with the child or the family.”

Bleakney said that the home visits become an exciting memory for his students.

“It’s amazing how many times they’ll bring up over the course of a year, ‘Remember when you were at my house?’” he said.

Deanna Marcum, 43, also bonded with the three teachers. Marcum, who works at home, told them about the convenience of having the kids’ grandmother living in the other side of their house so she could send her sons to play with her while she gets work done.

She also joked that the triplets, despite looking like near-copies of each other, had wildly different personalities — something that Eskew related to, because she has twin nieces who are the same way.

Marcum said she remembered feeling nervous on her first day of kindergarten, and appreciated that Redmond has its teachers ease young students into school.

“As a 5-year-old, going into a new place with a ton of kids is very intimidating,” she said. “I think it’ll be nice that (students) can say, ‘I know him’ or ‘I know her.’”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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