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Mar 26, 2012 |
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Shari Brown, a Lenoir, N.C., educator,  received the national 2012 Toyota Teacher of the Year award Sunday at the National Conference on Family Literacy in San Diego.

Brown is a family literacy coordinator and instructor employed by Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. The Caldwell County Family Literacy Program that Brown serves will receive $20,000 as a result of the honor from Toyota and the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL). The program serves about 50 families and another 30 are on the waiting list.

“As the proverb goes, instead of giving a family a fish, I am able to guide my families through the process of learning to fish by developing lessons around their interests and needs, allowing them ample opportunities for short- and long-term goal achievement in a secure environment, and enhancing self-esteem and building confidence so they will reach for their dreams,” Brown said. “It also is what we are fostering in parent engagement activities, so parents can be the guide for their children.”

The county faces many challenges, including high unemployment and a teen pregnancy rate twice the state average. Despite those obstacles, the program has a strong record of success:

  • Children in the program score six to 18 months higher than the norm on testing and enter school ready to learn;
  • The effect also is long-term – children graduate at higher rates than their peers who didn’t attend the program;
  • ESL children enter kindergarten at the same or higher levels as their non-ESL peers and require no accommodations;
  • Adult students have a 94 percent persistence rate; and
  • Adult ESL students move from the lowest levels of ESL to graduate with a GED and enter college (15 last year). They also become advocates for their children in school.

“Shari, the other educators in her program and the families are proof that meaningful parental engagement can be achieved with all demographics,” said Sharon Darling, president & founder of NCFL. “Shari’s work is a model that other programs and schools can emulate.”

The grant amount doubled this year for the award, which is in its 16th year. Brown said the award money will be used to create a community garden. Parent engagement activities will address the obesity epidemic, improve nutrition, promote healthy cooking and prepare adults for careers in high-growth industries – including helping them obtain college credit for this project.

“Her bar is very high, her content extremely rigorous, her results exceptional – that is why Shari Brown is the 2012 Toyota Teacher of the Year,” said Patricia Pineda, group vice president, Toyota Motor North America, Inc. “The award is based on a history of success, but we are extremely excited about what the future of the program will bring.”

The Teacher of the Year runner-up, who received a $2,500 grant and a scholarship to attend the conference, is Karen Routt, program manager for the School on Wheels in Indianapolis.

Reaching the most difficult to serve transient and homeless populations in 10 shelters and two schools, School on Wheels serves 350 homeless families each year. With volunteer academic mentors, who meet with middle school and high school students weekly, School on Wheels has achieved solid student gains: 77 percent of students maintained or increased grades during times of deep family turmoil.

Routt will use the award money to help create an impact documentation plan of a parent engagement plan – the first of its kind for School on Wheels. It also would cover assessment and evaluation.

To find out more about the Toyota Teacher of the Year Award, click here.


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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