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Nov 17, 2014 |
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Reflections from Elizabeth Atack, Nashville Public Library program manager

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The entire Toyota Family Teacher of the Year process was a whirlwind! In January, I learned that my boss had nominated me for the award and, within a couple of weeks, I was called for a video interview. A couple of days after that, I was told I was a finalist and that I’d be going to Washington, DC. I remember having difficulty processing that I—not a classroom teacher, but an educator working in a library—could possibly be a finalist for a teaching award. Not because I don’t consider myself a teacher, but because I was so shocked that others did, too.

When the announcement was made that I had been selected as the 2014 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year, I was stunned. So stunned, in fact, that I felt a strange sense of calm as I made my way to the stage to accept the award from Michael Rouse, Toyota’s vice president of diversity, philanthropy and community affairs, during the 2014 Families Learning Summit in Washington, D.C. The lights on stage made it hard to see the people applauding, but I could hear them.

The magnitude of what had just happened started to sink in.

After the award presentation, so many people came up to me to offer their congratulations. The most touching kudos came from others who work in libraries. They were more excited than I was—and I was very, very excited! Winning the Teacher of the Year award made me feel like a rock star among librarians. You see, most librarians consider themselves educators and this award validated them as such. I was so proud to do that for them—it’s truly been the most meaningful part of the award to me.

Toyota Family Teaching in Action

Teacher of the Year

The $20,000 prize is the icing on the proverbial cake, and has really helped to open doors for Nashville Public Library. Like so many cities in the southeastern United States, Nashville has experienced a significant demographic shift over the past 20 years, with a rapidly growing foreign-born population. In fact, this year, our local paper reported that 20% of Nashville’s public school system is Latino.

Since the library is a place for everyone, we have used the prize money to engage in intentional outreach to Nashville’s non-English speaking populations, partnering with local non-profits as well as the school system. To date, we’ve had over 200 participants come to our events, which offer a taste of what the library has to offer families. We also send each child home with a book to add to their home library. None of this would have been possible without the award money. In fact, we’ve been talking with our partners about how to continue our collaborative programming.

Winning this award has been a major turning point in my career and in Nashville Public Library’s status in the community. Though the thought of handing over my crown is a bit sad, I can’t wait to see who the 2015 Teacher of the Year will be. One thing’s for sure: it will change that person's life and career in ways he or she can’t even imagine.

Help us find the 2015 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year! We want to award a $20,000 grant to an exemplary educator working with families in schools, libraries, or other community-based organizations. if you know someone who is making a difference in the lives of families, we would like to hear about him or her. Nominations are due 12/31. 


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website