Throughout 2018, NCFL’s Education Solutions blog is exploring the effective habits of past Toyota Teachers of the Year. Many of these award-winning teachers felt that they had to create energy around family engagement in their schools. This energy came from their own passion for working with families. When practitioners fully embrace family learning programming, it is their energy and passion that drive the work.
Teachers of the Year offered the following insights as to how to accomplish this goal:
View Challenge as an Opportunity
Teachers mentioned they felt it important to see a challenge as an opportunity. Addressing that opportunity in an energetic way helps to ease the challenge. Early childhood teacher Amy Hall of Wilson, Michigan, shared, “When I see a negative behavior, it is an opportunity to remind myself that children and adults walk in the door each day with different challenges. I want to be part of their successes.” For Amy, that meant putting forth the energy necessary to help that family succeed. Whether arriving at school early to prepare, visiting families at home and delivering activities and homework packets, checking to make sure families are okay, or transporting them to school or events—Amy puts the energy into her families, every single day. In turn, that energy manifests itself into a noticeable passion for her work.
Find Inspiration in Stories of Success
Similarly, Pat Urdialez of Mesa, Arizona, added, “When my students share their successes with me, it gives me more energy and more passion to do even more.” She continued with, “I believe in the impact that I have on them. If I show them energy and passion, it will come right back to me in their desire to learn, and in the effort they put forth. I think this is one of the reasons my classes are well attended and successful.” In this way, a cycle is created where practitioners can gain energy from the success of their families, and families are more successful due to the energy of their program leaders.
Focus on the Positive
Toyota Family Teachers of the Year frequently mentioned being positive and always using a positive approach with families. Lorie Preheim of Washington, DC, shared that she makes it a habit to use a positive approach. “By looking for the good in everything, whether it be people, staff’s talents, materials, professional development, and seeing how that can support and improve the work, you create a positive environment with continuous program improvement.” This positive outlook creates energy.
Remember that while many families and adult learners come to us because they have needs, we also should recognize their strengths. Liz Atack of the Nashville Public Library, says that she focuses on strengths rather than telling parents about all the wrong things they are doing. She offers parents tips and ideas and explains why they are a good thing. “Often, parents are already doing some of these things (talking with or singing to their children, for example), and giving them encouragement to trust their instincts and go with what they know is very empowering for them.” Emphasizing strengths is another way to focus on the positive and create energy around our work.
2018 Toyota Teacher of the Year Nominations
Do you know an educator who is innovative, energetic and passionate about family engagement in learning? Consider nominating them for the 2018 Toyota Teacher of the Year. This esteemed award recognizes the positive impact of teachers who engage families through exemplary practices in school and community-based educational programming. Along with recognition, this award comes with a $20,000 grant to implement innovative ideas for expanding the recipient's program to benefit families and/or to engage more families. One runner-up will be awarded $5,000. In addition, both winners will receive their awards September 24-26, 2018, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, at the 2018 Families Learning Conference. Both will receive a scholarship and travel stipend to participate. (Conference attendance is required to receive the awards.) For more information or make a nomination, click here.
Toyota Family Learning Program
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, they invested in the organization’s 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 reach the 35.7 million adults ages 18-64 who do not have a high school diploma by guiding them to better-paying, more stable jobs.
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 to advance early literacy and learning resources for vulnerable families. Current efforts supported by PNC include a collaborative initiative in two at-risk Detroit communities that engages families to support vocabulary development for children under age 5.
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
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
NCFL has partnered with the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University since 2001, working collaboratively to further research, professional development, and policy efforts for family literacy and intergenerational learning.
The work of this partnership includes, but is not limited to, a strong research strand at NCFL's national annual convening, the Families Learning Summit; advocacy for family literacy and learning to further support for and inclusion of family-focused education in new and ongoing legislation; and dissemination of the latest research, resources, information, and professional development opportunities for literacy and learning practitioners and advocates, including the Certificate in Family Literacy provided by the Goodling Institute.Learn more about the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University