Person of the Week
Ready to Run? PTA Council Sponsors North Haven Road Race
Jennifer Giering, co-president of the North Haven Public School PTA Council, has a goal of uniting the PTAs throughout the district for the betterment of North Haven’s students. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Giering)
Jennifer Giering began volunteering with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of Ridge Road Elementary School seven years ago when her younger son entered kindergarten. Since then, she has served on a number of committees, organized different events, and was co-president of the Ridge Road PTA for four years.
“My mom was always involved when I was a kid and I always knew I wanted to be involved in my kids’ school,” says Jennifer, mom to 13-year-old Samuel and 11-year-old Jason. “It’s been very rewarding that I was able to get involved in as much as I have.”
Now Jennifer is the co-president of the North Haven Public Schools PTA Council, which oversees the six PTAs, including Clintonville, Green Acres, Montowese, Ridge Road, North Haven Middle School, and North Haven High School.
The North Haven PTA Council will host a road race on Sunday, Oct. 3 at North Haven Middle School with registration and check-in beginning at 9 a.m., the Kids Fun Lap ($7) at 9:45 a.m., the one-mile ($23) at 10 a.m., and the 5K ($35) at 10:30 a.m. Registration packets can also be picked up at JRoos Restaurant on Saturday, Oct. 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. All proceeds from this town-wide event will benefit the six North Haven Public Schools PTA board and be designated for the funding of arts and sciences programming.
This is the first year that the event will function as a road race. Several years ago, Jennifer was approached by Stacey O’Connor, a teacher at Ridge Road and PTA president at Clintonville Elementary School, about hosting a color run, which they hosted for two years.
“We agreed to try it as just a race and wanted to make sure everyone knew that the entire town could get involved,” says Jennifer. “All of the PTAs are involved in planning it and it’s very important to me that the town feels united.”
When Jennifer first got involved in volunteering, she started by attending PTA meetings and found different ways to help. She began to help with the school yearbook and began a yearbook club with another parent. She enjoyed watching the students capture photos to be featured with donated digital cameras.
As she became more involved, Jennifer had an idea for an event. With two “very active sons,” she was looking for a fun way to get them excited about the beginning of the school year. The Try-Athlon was born with Jennifer, her husband George, and another couple creating an obstacle course.
“The kids really loved the event and made T-shirts and formed teams,” says Jennifer. “It was really fun, but it was exhausting. Just as the obstacles had run their course, COVID happened and we put an end to it.”
During those years, Jennifer also served as co-president of the Ridge Road PTA with Kristin Cohen. Another accomplishment they were particularly proud of was the addition of wheelchair accessible and sensory items added to the playscape. They were assisted by a parent of a student in a wheelchair and Christina Montanari, who was vice president of the PTA.
The PTA got the students involved in fundraising for the new playground components. Jennifer enjoys getting feedback from the students, especially her sons, when it comes to creating events. When it came time to plan the 5th-grade recognition ceremony, she asked them what they would like to see.
“I think they like that I’m involved. They were never the kind of kids who were embarrassed when I was in school because I was there all the time,” says Jennifer. “I like getting them involved in the decision-making and take their suggestions to mind.”
As both of her sons aged out of elementary school, Jennifer found it was time to make a change as well. Last year, she found out that the former president of the PTA Council was stepping down so Jennifer took on the role, “dragging my co-president [Cohen] with me.”
Taking over in the midst of COVID was a challenge, but Jennifer found that her involvement in NHPS’s Return to School Committee was beneficial. It not only helped in planning, but she was able to act as a liaison between the PTA boards and the committee.
“We oversee all of the PTAs in town and make sure everyone is doing the right thing and staying connected,” says Jennifer. “One thing Kristin and I wanted to do was to unite all of the schools more than they had been.”
Jennifer and her husband George, who met at Amity High School, moved to North Haven in 2002 and are raising their sons, who are now in 6th and 8th grade. The family enjoys skiing. The boys both run cross-country for the middle school and play for the North Haven Soccer Club. Jennifer coached their teams when they were young is also involved with the club.
Jennifer also likes to stay active and has always been a runner. Though foot injuries have hampered her running recently, she does plan on running in the North Haven PTA Council Road Race.
Though Jennifer’s volunteer work keeps her busy, she enjoys it and has found it rewarding in many ways. When her children were at the elementary school, she loved being in the school and getting to know the administration, teachers, staff, and students.
She has also made many friends along the way, noting, “I always had a really solid team so it made working with the board really fun. They were easy to work with, motivated, and helpful.”
Jennifer hopes that more parents will take the time to get involved. She is quick to point out that there are many jobs that can be done from home that are “hugely helpful” such as organizing yearbook orders or contacting other parents. Those interested in getting involved can reach out to their student’s school to be put in touch with the PTA or email Jennifer at email@example.com.
“We can find ways for people to be involved that fit within the limits that you need—there are a million ways to be involved without being in the school every day,” says Jennifer. “At the end of the day, if we don’t have people helping, stuff isn’t going to get done or it lands on two or three people, which isn’t fair. Getting involved is a really nice way to get to know your school community and makes you feel a little closer to that community where your child goes to school.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .