Rona Falls, who will assume the presidency of the Parent Teacher Association at Mundy Mill Learning Academy in Gainesville this fall, is already being lauded for her contributions to the school.
She is one of six parents from across the state who will be honored on Saturday, June 8, with the Georgia Parent Leadership Award bestowed by the state Department of Education and the Georgia Parent Teacher Association.
In an interview with The Times, Falls, who served as PTA vice president this past academic year, described the recognition as humbling, and said she was “floored” to be chosen.
According to a Department of Education press release, “The award was created by Georgia Department of Education and Georgia Parent Teacher Association to recognize parents for their outstanding leadership in creating a foundation of support for student achievement and success.”
Falls’ impact is even more remarkable given that Falls only arrived in the United States two years ago.
Falls was born in the Philippines, where she met her husband, Eric, who was raised in Gainesville and works as a vice president of a call center with an international scope.
When the couple’s daughter, Lizzy, was approaching school age, the Falls family decided to move to the United States.
“It was the right time in terms of starting elementary school,” Falls said. “It was the perfect age for her to make that transition.”
Lizzy, 7, will begin the second grade at Mundy Mill this fall.
Falls said she immediately noticed the stark differences in educational access and rigor between public schools in America and those in the Philippines.
The public schools in the Philippines are underfunded, she said, and some don’t even have actual classrooms.
“If you have any money at all, you put your kids in private school there,” she said.
Falls, for example, was amazed that Mundy Mill had in-school tutors, in addition to other services to support students and their families.
When she arrived in the United States, Falls said the only people she knew were her husband, daughter and mother-in-law.
So, she initially got involved with the school to “network,” she said.
“When we moved here, I had the time to come and help out in the community,” Falls added. “I’ve been really, really active here.”
Having now established roots, Falls has begun to expand her reach. She also serves on Mundy Mill’s school governance council, as well as the Gainesville City School System’s technology committee.
Falls is also a Girl Scout troop leader.
“We are so welcomed here,” Falls said, adding that serving the school and students’ families has been a team effort with lots of support from other dedicated parents.
“Nothing we do as educators is possible without parent involvement and support,” state school Superintendent Richard Woods said in a press release. “I commend each of these individuals for investing in their child’s education and, in the process, lifting up the entire school community.”
Parents were nominated by their local schools.
Falls was specifically nominated by Crystal Brown, principal of Mundy Mill.
“Mrs. Falls is the first person that comes to my mind when we need a volunteer to help with school functions,” Dr. Brown said in the press release. “She has worked in the school’s Holiday Store, helps with Picture Day, hangs student artwork in our display cases, chaperones field trips, and attends school events. She is a tremendous asset to Mundy Mill Learning Academy.”
Amanda Studer, a third-grade teacher at Mundy Mill Learning Academy and the 2019 Gainesville City Schools Teacher of the Year, said, “Mrs. Falls has a positive attitude and is willing to help in any way. She welcomes all families into the school and empowers others to be advocates for their child’s learning. … She is truly deserving of this honor for all the hard work she does and the direct impact she has on Mundy Mill.”
Moving into the president’s role of the Mundy Mill PTA for the 2019-20 academic year means more responsibility and investment for Falls, but that’s not something she’ll shy away from. In fact, it’s an opportunity.
“There’s plenty of work to do, but I’m not complaining at all,” she said.