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Nov 14, 2018 |
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John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, is often quoted as saying, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” But if a person knows it all, what is there left to learn? The answer is plenty! The world is always changing, and new knowledge is being created. In interviews, the Toyota Family Teacher of the Year (TOY) award winners echoed Wooden’s sentiment. When asked about their personal habits, one refrain was repeated: teachers never stop learning.

These award-winning teachers have approached lifelong learning in different ways. Many were engaged in formal educational training and working toward advanced degrees. Others focused on professional development. For example, Cecilia Ramirez of Arizona (TOY 2001), completed the process to become a certified trainer for the National Center for Families Learning. Cecilia humbly said, “I am also a learner. The things I learned in professional development, I took back to my family literacy team and also to parents.”

Other educators focused on learning from experiences. Maria Antonia Piñón of Florida (TOY 2009) said, “See yourself not as a teacher, but as a learner. If we remain in the mindset of being a learner, we walk in their shoes. Be a learner and grow from your own experiences and from your students.” In this way, everyone in a class or program can take on the role of both teacher and learner. Jean Ciborowski Fahey of Massachusetts (TOY 2016) also talked about learning from experiences in terms of mistakes. She said, “Mistakes are okay...indeed, they are instructional” and from them comes something new and better.

Listening and learning is also important to relationship building. Kristen Whitaker of Washington, D.C. (TOY 2015) emphasized the importance of learning about families. Her learning also includes keeping up with international news. “How can I understand what troubles the immigrant families I serve if I do not know what is going on in their countries and with their families?” Learning more about what is important to families helps her to better understand her students and build stronger relationships with them.

Learning takes many different forms. These award-winning teachers recognize that the value of all types of lifelong learning. From formal education to experiences and from mistakes to the daily paper, they can pass their love of learning on to their students while also learning from them. Mark Faloni of Washington, D.C. (TOY 2006) summed it all up when he said, “I get to teach my students English and the American culture, and they get to teach me life.”

From teacher to teacher - learn in order to teach. Learn from your experiences and from your students. 

This blog is part of a yearlong series focused on the habits of past winners of the Toyota Family Teacher of the Year Award. Visit NCFL’s newly designed website to read the entire Stronger Families, Stronger Communities series.


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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