The Glowing Lakewood Puzzle

Imagine putting together a complex puzzle. You would typically start around the edges and build inward. These pieces are dark, confusing to put together, and represent all the struggles of 2020. While building towards the middle of the puzzle, the image starts to show a beautiful glowing aura, and the center shows IHSD’s Lakewood Head Start and Early Head Start team.

“We’re like a puzzle and our pieces just fit together,” site supervisor Kifah Gheith shared.

Despite the shutdown of many child care programs and teachers being stretched to new limits, the Lakewood team dug deep within themselves to channel positivity while operating during a pandemic. ”If we feel that someone is not having their best day or having a tough time, we’ll try to lift each other’s spirits,” Gheith explained. In the morning, the team makes an effort to safely greet each other. “Even if it’s a text when we’re really busy. We’ll also wave at each other,” she shared. Lakewood teacher Yamilette Carrero is another example of the team’s support for each other. While in recovery from a medical procedure, Carrero was thrilled to receive flowers from her co-workers. “I would like to share my beautiful flowers,” Carrero said. “They are blooming every day. These are the blessings, and I’m thankful for all the beautiful and positive energies that were given to me before and after my spinal surgery.” As the youngest on the Lakewood team, teacher Tuipulotu (also goes by Lotu) Tongilava really considered the risks of going to work during the pandemic while caring for her father at home but eventually returned to be with her team.

“It’s such a joy to see co-workers helping each other,” she shared. “This is a second family to me.”

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Sintiendo Los Síntomas de la Fatiga Pandémica

Esta contribucion es opinion de Nora Melendez. (Las opiniones expresadas por los autores no necesariamente reflejan las opiniones y puntos de vista y polizas de IHSD.)


Fatiga Pandémica. Es un término aún más personal para muchos de nosotros. Es el reconocimiento que ya estamos, en forma colectiva e individual, cansados hasta el hueso. Frustrados, más preocupados por nuestra salud, patrimonio y longevidad. Un día estamos bien y el próximo no tanto. Alcanzar los extremos emocionales es mucho más fácil.

Es difícil enfocarse, es duro empezar las tareas. Es más fácil perder la cordura sobre las cosas que alguna vez fueron tolerables. Los niños gritan, el trabajo es inestable, la casa un desastre. Que paso con esa persona estable quien podía con todo? A donde gano esa señora fuerte quien era la roca para los demás?

Hoy en día, se siente un poco más blanda debido a esas libritas ganadas al comer por el estrés.

A nosotros los padres de niños pequeños, quizá nos toco un poco más de suerte porque las pre-escolares pudieron abrir el pasado otoño. Pudimos recibir una poca de ayuda con la obligación de tener a TODOS los niños en casa, TODO el tiempo. Pero algunos niños mayores debieron tomar clases a distancia, que agrego la presión de educar en casa a nuestros hijos encima de las obligaciones existentes. Al mismo tiempo, tuvimos que balancear el trabajo fuera de casa, y las preocupaciones sobre el Coronavirus, y claro están los quehaceres; lavar la ropa, cocinar, la limpieza, comprar la despensa, el cuidado de niños que nunca se detuvieron.Read more

Experiencing Symptoms of Pandemic Fatigue

Opinion piece contributed by IHSD parent Nora Melendez. (Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints, and official policies of IHSD.)


Pandemic Fatigue. It’s a term that is new but increasingly personal for many of us. It’s the realization that we, as a collective and as individuals, have reached a point where we are bone tired. Frustrated, more worried about our health, wealth, and longevity. One day, we are ok and not so much the next. Getting to emotional extremes is easier.

It’s hard to focus, tough to get on task. It’s easier to get upset about things that were tolerable before. The screaming kids, the unstable job, the house a mess. What happened to that once stable individual that could handle it all? Where did that strong lady go who was the rock for everyone else?

Today, she feels a bit more squishy from the extra pounds gained from stress eating.

We, parents of young children, may have been lucky that preschools had the ability and option to open in the fall. We were able to get some relief from the pressures of having ALL the kids at home, ALL the time. But some older children had to take classes solely through distance learning, which added the pressure of homeschooling to our full parenting plate. All the while balancing outside work schedules, managing the anxiety over losing a job, and worries over the Coronavirus, and then add the duties of running a household, laundry, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and childcare which never stopped.Read more

Get Involved with IHSD Parent Committee Council (PCC) Meetings!

Written by IHSD parent and contributor Nora Melendez

The Parent Committee Council (PCC) is made up of a group of dedicated parents who have a desire to make the IHSD program better for all children. Volunteering as a parent also

  • Sets a Good Example: children learn from their parents and what they value
  • Sense of Ownership and Community: working with teachers help parents build a sense of ownership in the program and meet- ing other parents helps build friendships.
  • Makes a Difference in Academic Life: it shows your child that academics is important to you and you can make your voice heard to improve the program.

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IHSD Teachers Connect in Solidarity During COVID Times

With very little advance notice to comply with the shelter-in-place order, IHSD followed the rest of the Bay Area and considered how to navigate uncharted waters. On Monday, March 16, IHSD quickly closed its 13 different child care program centers that serve nearly 700 children around San Mateo County. Despite needing to stay at home, IHSD teachers and staff worked diligently to consider how they would flip their infant-toddler, home-based visiting program, and preschool classrooms to support remote learning in order to remain connected with their families.

Phase 1 was an adjustment period while the entire community shifted to sheltering in place. Teachers especially not only had to assess their own tools and resources to continue working from home but also had to consider the resources and needs of the families they served. “We actually had to do a mass ordering of equipment such as additional laptops for teachers and IHSD administrative staff,” IHSD Executive Director Angel Barrios explained. “iPads from the program sites also had to be distributed to teachers at home.” 

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Stay-at-Home Stories from IHSD Community (Continued)

Stories compiled by IHSD parent Nora Melendez. (Click here for part 1.)


Shipra Roy, IHSD teacher at Magnolia Head Start

The shelter-in-place order has had a lot of impact on everyone in many ways. Listening to the news during the first two weeks was especially scary. I later got involved working on my sewing projects to keep my mind in a positive mood. When I saw [IHSD Executive Director] Angel Barrios' message requesting masks, my energy for sewing deepened even more. I was inspired to learn how to make all kinds of DIY masks.

My husband and my daughter are currently both working from home. After three weeks of staying indoors (including not going to the back or front yard), my husband started planting seeds. Now I help him plant them in the ground. Watching those tiny plants grow everyday is like watching children grow. It brings us both a lot of joy and keeps us in a positive mood during this pandemic.

I had always wondered what can I do to help our children and families during this time of crisis. What could I provide to the children to keep them engaged with learning and fun at home? When everything got set up to connect with the children through Google Meet, it brought more joy to me. I created a Preschool Work Place at Home by setting up a picnic table in one of my extra rooms. Today, I used three diffrent sizes of forks and spoons to create patterns during Live Circle. I was also working on a number sequencing puzzle made from a Cheerios box for next week. The music stand is to hold my phone when I record myself for a video.

I would like to give a thousand thanks to my co-teachers, Teacher Amalia and Teacher Leticia, for bringing wonderful activities to the children during Live Circle and for posting our videos.

"We will overcome this situation together as we have gotten more opportunities to make our bond stronger..." - Charlie Cervantes

Charlie Cervantes, IHSD Family Service & Father Engagement Specialist

Hello everyone! With the situation at hand, there have been many adjustments for my family from scheduling homework time for my kiddos to working from home, which I'm still getting used to and realizing it can be nearly impossible sometimes to find a balance and space with no interruptions in my apartment with 3 children. As we are under the quarantine, we have to get fresh air every day because a 1 bedroom apartment can get a little tight for the 4 of us, of course, while practicing safety measures when in public.

My 5-year-old is in need of my attention the most as he looks for any excuse for interactions and that stops my momentum; work, train of thought, etc. When he demands help with his LEGO house, it could be the end of the world if help does not arrive. Being in the child and family development field, I COMPLETELY IGNORE HIM! Just kidding...I stop what I'm doing and play for a bit. Sometimes ignoring him is necessary so I can complete deadlines, but he knows what to say to make me feel bad....and to get me to play with him.

We will overcome this situation together as we have gotten more opportunities to make our bond stronger and to get to know more of each other. Overall, I enjoy the time with my family.

Alicia Gutierrez, IHSD Family Services Specialist of Laurel Head Start

COVID-19 has changed our life in a way that no one would ever thought. Working from home and being a mom of small children is not an easy job for anybody. I am sure most of our families are going through the same challenges. There are always so many homework, assignments and art projects to complete and submit before 4 PM. I look at 3 different laptops during the day so as soon as the clock hits 4 o’ clock the fun begins. Because boy if that is stressful!!

When days are nice, we walk to the park or ride a bike. We spend many hours at park, doing some chalk challenges, walking around in teams of 2 (with my little family of 4) and bet who would find more colors around the park in 10 minutes or we just sit down and let kids be kids. Even when playgrounds are closed they still enjoy the park by just riding their bikes in circles and we get to relax just by sitting at a bench breathing the fresh air!!!

When days are not that beautiful and work and school are over, we enjoy watching movies and eating popcorn, old Disney movies are my favorites. We also play UNO, BASTA (Mexican game), puzzles (I love doing puzzles), and art. I am not the at best doing art, but my 6 years old loves art.

We are also enjoying all the Zoom free classes that the E. Palo Alto public library is offering, and my son does ukulele class online. I send the link to my Laurel Head Start kiddos now, and I get to enjoy watching them doing classes with my daughter. Like yesterday, they had a ballet class and 3 of my Laurel site girls were there it was super fun!!!

Laurel site is having a virtual coffee with parents, so that they can also have some time to talk to and not just the children during their circle time, which I am enjoying a lot!! But as a lot of parents said, they also need someone to talk to. Laurel Virtual Cafecito time is for them!!

I feel blessed that IHSD teachers can work from home, but this is a new way to learn and teach for teachers, parents, and children. - Lucia Alvarez

Austreberta Garcia, IHSD teacher at Laurel Head Start

It is difficult to deal with all the changes that we are facing during this quarantine because of COVID-19. My family and I are trying to find different activities to do in our daily life to handle all the stress that this situation brought to us. For example, to learn all the technology processes to keep working from home was something that shocked me. Furthermore, I had to support my daughter to keep her routine and do her school through this method as well. As a family, we work together to see what can do better for us and deal with the stress while this shelter in place is happening.

As a family, we try to walk every day keeping the distance with others. My husband and my daughter play soccer almost every day to spend a little energy and sleep better. We play board games as a family so we can stop watching TV for a while. Besides that, we play board games such as snakes and ladders, UNO, and La Oca. Those can be very entertaining and fun games to enjoy with the family. Also, spending time planning activities for children to do at home with their parents is taking more time than I expected, however, that keeps my mind busy instead of being worried for all the time of the changes that this quarantine has brought to my family. I am glad I can still work, because not everybody has that opportunity. My husband stopped working since this situation began, so I have to provide for my family.

Ultimately, it is very challenging and difficult, but we can do many activities to make our place in shelter manageable. As mentioned before, walking, biking, playing soccer, or other sport, seek and hide (outside), or board games can be very helpful during this situation. All of these activities have been very helpful for me and my family to face all the challenges during this shelter in place because of the COVID-19.

Lucia Alvarez, IHSD teacher at East Palo Alto Head Start

My name is Lucia Alvarez, a preschool teacher at the EPA site. As you see in my picture, I was playing with my computer to pretend I was outside in the summertime, but it was just a virtual background. I try to stay positive with a sense of humor during shelter in place! I wish that this photo was true, because I enjoy going out for a walk and seeing the beautiful views that nature gives us, however, I must stay at home during shelter in place.

Shelter in place has affected my job tasks, my hobbies, as well as my relationship with others, but I am taking these changes in a good way. I take advantage of being at home by doing things that I did not do frequently, like eat healthy, sleep well, and do indoor exercise, in other words, learn to take care of myself.

I feel blessed that IHSD teachers can work from home, but this is a new way to learn and teach for teachers, parents, and children. All of us are learning how to use technology to stay informed and connected. Teachers are learning to record themselves to send curriculum videos about, storytime, math and language activities every week to parents. By doing this, we help the parents discover more ideas about home activities to support their child’s learning while schools are closed.

I am also learning how to use Google Hangouts to have our Live Circle. I miss those days where I could meet with children and parents in person, but I am so happy to see all their faces, sing with them, and talk with them during our virtual meetings. I wish you all the best, stay positive, and stay healthy, because I want to see all of you soon in person!

I am glad I can still work, because not everybody has that opportunity. - Austreberta Garcia

Maria Gonzalez, IHSD teacher at East Palo Alto Head Start

Hello, my name is Maria Gonzalez, I work as a teacher at IHSD in EPA in classroom A. I hope you and your families are doing well during these hard and sad times that we are all living which have affected us, especially the children. Even through all this, I
am happy we are able to stay in contact with the children and parents through our virtual lessons.

I am currently staying with my daughter, her husband, and my beautiful grandson at their home. There are times I feel tired of the current quarantine situation, but when I see my grandson smiling at me, it gives me the strength to keep staying positive. I haven’t seen my husband and son in almost 3 months since I’ve been here and I miss them a lot. But the important thing is we are all doing well. and that’s what matters the most. Thank you for your help and understanding during these times and for your great support to continue giving your children the necessities to succeed at the next level. Wishing you all the best.

Gabriela Arroyo, IHSD teacher at East Palo Alto Head Start

Hello, my name is Gabriela Arroyo, I work for IHSD, I am in classroom A as a preschool teacher. Hope everyone is being safe and being careful during this time. For myself and my family, COVID 19 has been a little challenging, we found out we were pregnant a week after shelter in place was taken place and going to the hospital has been very challenging. Thankfully the doctors are doing their part and helping us during this time. Both my husband and I are working from home, and our daughter is in class via Zoom for about 5 hours a day. I am very happy that we have technology and see our wonderful students on weekdays and being able to give them different activities on Youtube and being able to create videos with my daughter. It's fun trying to see what ideas we can make and being able to experience that with families. Something that is helping us cope with the stress during this time is helping one another. My husband and I follow a schedule and work with the time that we have. We alternate time with our daughter when she needs help with school. We go out for afternoon walks and try to make new cooking recipes. We read at night, and we are always learning and keeping each other busy.

Rosalyn Senkbeil, IHSD teacher at East Palo Alto Head Start

This is teacher Rosalyn and I thought I’d share a cartoon drawn of me and my husband, Dan. We are presently both working from home. We are the only ones home together. Our son lives in San Jose with his wife, and our daughter lives in Los Angeles with her husband and our 18 month old grandson. We contact our family by using FaceTime. It’s been fun talking to our grandson daily and watching him run around. We work all week and the highlight of the weekend is taking a 2 mile walk to Nations Burger on Sunday, to get a hamburger for lunch. I enjoy keeping in touch with all our students and families with our live circle from 10:00 am to 10:30 am, Monday to Friday. It’s also been great to provide a curriculum every week for our students. I’ve been reading from Pete the Cat books. Staying at home has not been easy, its pretty quiet! I miss each one of you and look forward to when we can all be together again! Stay healthy and safe.

Stay-at-Home Stories from IHSD Community

Stories compiled by IHSD parent Nora Melendez.


Nora Melendez, IHSD parent

The recent shelter in place order took all of us by surprise.

Our normal routines were suddenly interrupted and my husband and I were forced to scramble to figure out how to deal with the school shutdowns, deal with anxiety of the coronavirus and making sure our family was safe, as well as getting to the store to buy whatever we needed to weather the situation. Not to mention the financial stress of not being able to work. My kids are really young (ages 5, 4 and 3) so they haven’t asked too many questions. The oldest understands that we can’t go outside as much because of a nasty bug that we need to protect ourselves from.

Our new routine includes lots of drawing, educational videos of insects and how-to art videos for Archy. And now that we have a lot of time at home, potty training for our youngest.

We need to remember that the children will only be this little for a short while longer.

After three weeks of confinement, our family is reaching a new normal. I have relaxed some of my more strict rules like bedtime and the amount of sweets the kids are allowed. But overall, the adults in the room, have tried to keep a stable home environment. Just today, we enjoyed a walk as a family. The school has been great at sending out resources that will help us with food, mental health, legal help for renters, and of course; activity ideas for the kids.

Rather than lament our inability to do a lot of the activities we were able to do in the past, we are trying to enjoy this downtime. We need to remember that the children will only be this little for a short while longer. Enjoying them now has become a priority.Read more

Learning Patterns through Music

IHSD East Palo Alto Head Start Teacher Lucia was featured in The Big Lift's February newsletter under Teacher Connection Corner.


IHSD East Palo Alto Head Start teacher Lucia Alvarez completed’s webinar “Supporting Young Children’s Emerging Math Skills with Developmentally Appropriate Music Activities” at the encouragement of their Big Lift Coach John Fernandez. Teacher Lucia learned that music, songs, and movement activities are fun, engaging ways to support young children’s emerging math skills.

Working with their coach, the classroom teachers set the following SMART goal : "In order for children to learn patterning, the teachers will sing songs with patterns and verbalize the patterns to the children at the Circle Area during Music-and-Movement for a month"Read more

How Head Start Has Helped My Family

IHSD parent Nora Meléndez shares how Head Start has helped her family and how other parents can help too.


I will be completely honest. For a long time, I was not sure I even wanted to have children. I was focused on other things that were more important to me at the time. But as I got older, I started to consider that being a mom, was one more thing that I might want to accomplish in my lifetime. After an unplanned pregnancy that ended in miscarriage at age 30, I decided that I did want children after all. It took 7 more years before I would have my first child.

Before any of those events, I had seen the First 5 commercials on TV for many years. I was primed and conditioned through those commercials, as well as my own desire to give my children the best education possible, to search for enrichment programs when the time was right.
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Como Head Start Ayuda a Mi Familia

Seré completamente honesta. Por mucho tiempo, estaba insegura de quierer tener hijos. Estaba enfocada en otras cosas que eran mas importante para mi en ese entonces. Pero al pasar de los años, considere que quisá ser mamá, sería una cosa mas que podría lograr en mi vida. Despues de un embarazo no planificado, que resulto en aborto espontáneo a mis 30 años, decidí que si quiería hijos. Pasarían 7 años mas antes de tener a mi primer bebé.

Antes de ninguno de estos eventos, había visto los comerciales del First 5 en la tele por muchos años. Estaba lista y había sido condicionada mediante estos anuncios, asi como por mi propio deseo de darles a mis hijos el mejor comienzo posible, para buscar programas de enriquesimiento cuando fuera tiempo.

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