Helena Magazine

School Q&A with Helena Elementary PTO President Heather Leon

Published 10:58 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

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Helena Elementary School’s PTO President, Heather Leon, discusses her role and avid involvement with the HES faculty, parents and students.

Can you briefly describe the role of the PTO president at Helena Elementary?

The main roles of the PTO president is to support the teachers, staff, and students and act as a voice for the parents.  My job is also to make sure we are being fiscally responsible with our money, and using it in the most appropriate ways.  And sometimes I get to assume the role of Howler, our school mascot.  That might actually be my favorite part!

What inspired you to take on this role and its responsibilities? How are you enjoying the position?

Before I became a stay at home mom, I worked as a registered nurse.  I loved taking care of my patients and making a difference in their lives.  I guess becoming the PTO president is my way of serving others in a different capacity.  When my oldest child started school, I was always impressed with how organized and efficient the PTO was.  So, when a position on the PTO board became available I jumped on it.

Are there any upcoming PTO events or projects that parents and students should be excited about?

Yes!  Our biggest fundraiser of the year is happening October 4th-12th.  This year our goal is to raise $50,000 to use toward purchasing Orff musical instruments for our music department.  These instruments are designed to be inclusive for all developmental levels.  We partner with Boosterthon for a week of fun and character building activities.  Every day we have a different incentive that keeps things interesting.  We focus on each class working together as a team and coming together to help their school.  Our week ends with a Fun Run on Oct. 12. Each student will run or walk approx. 35 laps with their family, friends, and teachers cheering them on.  It is a huge event with lots of energy and excitement.  The Fun Run is definitely one of those core memories that our students will keep forever.  In the spring, PTO will be hosting The Spring Fling.  This is a weekend long carnival that takes place on our playground.  This is always a highlight for our students and the entire Helena community.

How does the PTO collaborate with the school administration?

Our PTO board is very blessed to have a wonderful relationship with our school administration.  We try to support our administration in any way they need whether that be financially or with the help of volunteers.  We all share the same mindset when it comes to serving our students and staff.  Our administration is a joy to work with!

In your time as PTO president, what have you been most proud of in relation to the work done by the PTO?

I feel like the obvious answer to this question would be to say I’m most proud of our new multi-purpose play area, and I truly am so proud of it, but honestly, I think I’m just as proud of how our PTO and committee leaders have strived to be inclusive and transparent to our HES families.  We set a goal to be as informative as we could be in order to keep everyone on the same page.  Every one of our PTO officers and committee leaders are committed to ensuring that everyone is included, feels valued, and is treated with respect.  I hope that our families feel this way.

Can you tell us about the new Multi-Purpose play area that was recently completed at HES, and how the PTO was involved in its development?

This multi-purpose play area has been a dream of one of our special-education teachers for quite some time.  We had an area at school that was not being used, and the PTO thought “let’s give this a shot.”  We sought out grants that might help us fund the project, started the process of pricing everything, and gathering all the details.  It took us several months to write the grant, but that work paid off.  We were awarded a $61,563.50 Parks & Recreation Grant from the Shelby County Commission.  PTO had to provide half of the funds for this project, so we really advertised the dream of this play area to our parents during last year’s Fun Run fundraiser.  We were hopeful at that time that we would receive the grant, but knew if we didn’t at least have half of the funds then this project wouldn’t happen.  Our HES families are so generous and supportive, and with their help we exceeded our goal for fundraising!  The Shelby County Buildings and Facilities group was also instrumental in helping us bring this project to life.  We finished the project a few weeks ago, and our students and teachers are loving it!  Knowing that this play area will be used by so many students makes all the work worth it.

How do you manage balancing your responsibilities as PTO president with your personal and professional life? Do you ever run into any issues where this is concerned?

This is my second year serving as PTO President and I feel like I know a little more of what to expect now.  Thanks to the help of our wonderful PTO officers, committee leaders, HES families, and HES teachers/staff they make my job easy.  Since I’m not currently working outside the home, it’s makes it a lot easier to be accessible to the school whenever they need me.  I’m also very blessed to have a supportive husband and two sons that love helping as well.

In your opinion, what makes Helena Elementary School special or unique when compared to other schools?

Our school is just sweet, innocent and everything you wish for in an elementary school.  The teachers and staff do such a great job of fostering imaginations and celebrating each child for their individual strengths.  Every holiday and theme day is so much fun. There is so much love felt in that school.  It’s the feelings you get from being there and the people that make it so special!

What’s something that you’d like every parent of the students who attend Helena Elementary to know about the PTO and its mission?

I would love for them to know how important they are to our PTO and our school.  From volunteering their time to donating to our fundraisers, every bit of involvement is appreciated and needed.  Our mission is simple.  We want to support our students, teachers, and staff.  Every bit of funds we raise goes toward that mission.  Our PTO also wants to foster a sense of teamwork among all of our HES families.  We strive to keep everyone up-to-date and informed through our PTO Facebook page.

What grade is your student currently enrolled in? Do you anticipate that you will continue your involvement with the Helena Elementary School and subsequent PTO’s in the years ahead? 

My oldest son, Griffin, is in 4th grade at HIS.  My youngest, Graham, is in 1st grade.  I would love to continue to be involved with PTO.  It’s such a great way to get to know the teachers and staff.  I’ve made some wonderful friends through working with the PTO.  It’s also such a joy to get to see my boys while at school.