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Oct 26, 2022 |
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Ivonne Ortiz of Mesa, Arizona, knows the power of positive thinking when it comes to achieving goals. She is a cheerleader for the students in her family literacy program, helping them to build confidence in themselves and to realize their educational and career goals. Her ability to work with students to turn their aspirations and dreams into action helped earn her the title of 2022 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year, a national designation that recognizes outstanding educators who are exceptional in engaging families in learning. 

Ivonne Ortiz, Mesa, Arizona

For 26 years, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) and Toyota have partnered to recognize educators across the nation who use a strong multi-generational approach to learning and focus on building effective family–school partnerships that support student achievement and school improvement. The award announcement was made public today during the Families Learning Conference by Michael Medalla, manager of Toyota USA Foundation + Workforce Readiness. Ortiz, and runner-up Dae Selcer of Columbia Heights, Minnesota, were surprised with news of their awards earlier this month. Watch the video of Ortiz’s surprise:

Ortiz, a family literacy instructor with Mesa Public Schools, strives to create a welcoming environment for her students where they feel safe to express their opinions and where their voices will be heard. She supplies parenting adults with many resources and tools to assist them in supporting their children’s academic success and achieving their own goals. She sees potential in all families and can envision the generational impact created by the work her students do today. As she puts it, “[With] the seeds I am planting, I know the harvest will be great.” 

Prior to becoming an educator, Ortiz was an adult student in the district’s family literacy program. Drawing on her experience as a student helps Ortiz understand what families might be experiencing and the challenges or barriers they face in succeeding. Her story inspires students to believe that they, too, can achieve their goals.

“Toyota has partnered with NCFL to recognize outstanding educators for nearly three decades because we know family engagement has the power to transform families and communities for generations to come,” says Medalla. “Ivonne and Dae represent the best of the best in engaging multiple generations in learning together, and we are honored to recognize them with these awards."

Dae Selcer in her classroom. Photo courtesy of Prodeo Academy
Dae Selcer in her classroom. Photo courtesy of Prodeo Academy.
Dae Selcer, Columbia Heights, Minnesota

Selcer is a multilingual learner teacher and program coordinator at Prodeo Elementary Academy, Columbia Heights. Described by her colleagues as a “stalwart advocate for multilingual learners and their families,” Selcer is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive classroom that is co-designed in partnership with families. She has also cultivated impactful relationships with community partners that directly support her school and families.

"Ivonne and Dae are educators committed to working alongside parents and children to create authentic learning pathways for their students,” says Dr. Felicia C. Smith, NCFL’s president and CEO. “By working with whole families and connecting their efforts to larger systems supporting adult learners and children, they are changing the course for how their communities advance equity outcomes and build toward a brighter future where families can thrive and contribute in meaningful ways."

Ivonne Ortiz with students from her family literacy class
Ivonne Ortiz with students from her family literacy class.

Ortiz’s school will receive $20,000 to implement a family leadership program aimed at fostering authentic partnership among families and schools in her district. As runner-up, Selcer’s school will receive a $5,000 grant award to support her family engagement efforts. Since 1997, Toyota Family Teacher of the Year winners, runners-up, and their respective organizations have received $650,000 and funded 52 innovative teacher-led projects.

The other finalists for this award were previously announced and include Renee Dawson (Atlanta, Georgia), Barbara Toure (Washington, DC) and Analía Wells (Greensboro, North Carolina).


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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