Sergio de Alba of Los Banos, California has long recognized the power of family engagement to create stronger families and stronger communities. For twenty-two years, he’s been committed to helping families in his rural farming community build deeper connections with their school and to creating an environment where all cultures, needs, and backgrounds are embraced. His success in this effort earned him the title of 2023 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year, a national designation that recognizes outstanding educators who are exceptional in engaging families in learning.
For 27 years, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) and Toyota have partnered to recognize educators from 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 last night during the Families Learning Conference by Mike Goss, General Manager of Social Innovation at Toyota Motor North America and President of the Toyota USA Foundation. Both Mr. de Alba and runner-up Dr. Artika Tyner of St. Paul, Minnesota, were surprised with news of their awards earlier this month.
As a child, Mr. de Alba was the son of a farm worker and an English language learner. He uses those personal experiences in his teaching and in interactions with the families and students at R.M. Miano Elementary School. He has a unique understanding of the challenges his students face and the ways that educational opportunity can transform communities like his by working with families as partners in the learning process and as integral parts of a child’s educational journey.
Throughout his career, Mr. de Alba has designed a variety of family engagement learning experiences that include events like cultural potlucks and astronomy nights alongside community service projects that teach the importance of civic engagement. These service-learning projects, all aligned to state standards, have built gardens, a baseball field, a veteran’s memorial stage, murals, and countless other monuments. He hopes to use the award to fund a new mural project and provide buses for an annual university tour for his students and families that promotes the importance of post-secondary educational opportunities.
“For nearly three decades, Toyota has partnered with NCFL to recognize and celebrate successful family engagement programs across the country,” says Goss. “Time and again we’ve seen the power of family engagement to impact student achievement and kickstart a legacy of multigenerational educational success. We are so pleased for the chance to celebrate Sergio and Artika and highlight the ways they’re making a difference for the families they serve.”
Dr. Tyner is an attorney, author, activist, and founder of Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute (PPGJLI) in St. Paul, Minnesota. PPGJLI works to end the school-to-prison pipeline by raising awareness of the reading crisis, supporting diverse books and authors, and promoting cultural preservation. She was inspired to create PPGJLI during her work as a civil rights attorney, where she noted that most of her clients learned how to read while incarcerated. Dr. Tyner hopes to use the award to expand her work both locally and nationally.
“Sergio and Artika are both committed to working alongside parents and children to break cycles of poverty and incarceration through educational success,” says NCFL President and CEO Dr. Felicia C. Smith. “By creating meaningful engagement opportunities and streamlining access to systems of support, these outstanding professionals are changing the course of both the families they serve and their communities. I can’t wait to see how they use this award to deepen their impact.”
As the 2023 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year winner, Mr. de Alba will receive $20,000 to implement a family leadership program aimed at fostering authentic partnerships among families and schools in her district. As runner-up, Dr. Tyner 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 $675,000 and funded 54 innovative teacher-led projects.
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
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