While 7-year-old Shiya Hunter was sitting in Liza Salmon’s art class learning about horizon lines in landscapes, her father and little sister sat next to her working on their own drawing.
Shiya explained how excited she was to have her father spend the day with her in school. She liked being able to show him her artwork while she created it.
“It’s fun,” said the second-grader at Martin Luther King Jr. Math, Science, Technology and Invention Magnet School in Schenectady.
Daniel Hunter said he usually drops his daughter off at school each day, but has never gone to class with her. This was his first time.
“I like seeing how she interacts with her friends and getting to see what they are doing in class,” he said. “It helps us build a stronger bond.”
Not every dad brings his children to school on a regular basis, so five years ago the state created a day for dads and father figures to get involved in the classroom. Various schools in the Schenectady City School District began participating in the annual “Dads Take Your Child to School Day” last year.
School districts in 27 counties throughout New York planned to participate in Tuesday’s event, including schools from the Albany and Troy city school districts.
“Research shows that male involvement in education is essential,” Vice Principal Joseph Duffy told a group of more than 100 dads. “It’s so important that you came today and we thank you for your participation. Your children thank you.”
The school encourages not just dads but any father figure in a student’s life to visit the day of the event. Mothers are invited as well.
“Sometimes the mothers get jealous [of the special day], but they’re the ones who are here the most,” Duffy said.
For those children who couldn’t bring an adult, male staff members stood by to act as a replacement. Several younger students entered the school with tears in their eyes because their fathers weren’t with them, but their expressions changed when Duffy offered to walk them to their classrooms. Other male staff members stood by to do the same.
But participation numbers are expected to grow.
According to Principal Nicki DiLeva, nearly 200 male role models visited the school for “dads day” last year. By measure of noise level and crowded hallways Tuesday morning, she expected to surpass that mark this year.
“This is one of the most supportive communities I’ve ever known,” she said.
Michael Prince did double duty Tuesday and brought his two grandchildren, Niana and Nijuan West, to school. He started the day by visiting 6-year-old Niana in her first-grade class, where they were learning about placing numbers in the correct order. “I have no problem coming to school with them. I love it,” he said.
Prince said he knows how important it is to get involved early with his grandchildren’s education. He liked learning how they are doing in school and who their friends are. He tried to do the same with his own kids.
William “Billy” Brown and his daughter, Karmine, sat next to Niana and Michael Prince in Ali Veldhuis’ class.
“I liked not having to ride the bus,” Karmine said while her father helped her cut out paper numbers.
Dad was just happy to spend the extra time with his daughter. Karmine lives in Schenectady with her mother and Billy Brown lives in Cohoes. So he took some time off in the morning to be able to pick her up and go to a few classes with her.
“I’m really proud of her,” he said while helping organize numbers. “She’s my pal.”
Parents were scattered in classrooms throughout the building, from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. One father of a middle school student followed his daughter to the chorus room and attempted to sing along with the group. Others went to science and even physical education classes.
Daniel McCormick made a special point to visit his son’s eighth-grade math class. He liked the subject when he was in school, and knew Daniel Jr. had trouble sometimes. McCormick’s other son, Devin, is in fourth grade at King. They were learning about character development in stories when he visited earlier in the day.
McCormick explained it’s not unusual for him to visit his children in school to see how they are doing. King Magnet has an open-door policy that allows parents to check up on their kids whenever they wish.
“I was just here yesterday, but I came again because it was a special day,” he said.
DiLeva said she wished parents would visit every day.
“The children love family support,” she said. “You can see it on their faces how excited they are.”