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Aug 3, 2018 |
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Since January, the Education Solutions blog has shared the wisdom of past Toyota Teacher of the Year award winners. The importance of building trust and community has been explored. In conversations, award-winning teachers also emphasized the value of making personal connections with students and their families. Katy Kibbey of Michigan (2008) stated, “Nothing is more important than the relationship.”

NCFL Education Solutions

As the new school year begins, consider ways to make personal connections with students and families. Patricia Urdialez of Arizona (2011) suggested beginning with an invitation. She explained, “I invite my students into a relationship with family literacy, with me, and with each other--a community bonded with similar goals and experiences.” She encouraged them to come to her room at any time to share ideas, plans, and concerns. She tried to make students feel welcome.

Connecting with students and families can become part of your day-to-day practice. Many classrooms and programs have routines for beginning their time together. Make the focus of these routines relationship building. Amy Hall of Michigan (2005) tried to arrive early every day to make sure she greeted each child and parent upon arrival. Cecilia Ramirez of Arizona (2001) used the attendance-taking time to focus on individual students. When students were absent, she would ask, “Have you heard anything about this person today?... Does this person need support and how can we support her?” Cecilia’s point was to show concern. She added, “This caring and support for each other every morning helped build our community of learners.”

While some relationships will develop naturally, teachers can intentionally create environments where students and families feel comfortable. Shari Brown of North Carolina (2012) achieved this by listening. She shared, “Every day I interact with and listen intently to my students and learn from their individual perspectives and life experiences. Having that connection with my students allows me to use their interests and needs as a foundation for my lesson.”

Award-winning teachers had a habit of making personal connections every day. They talked about being available before and after school and making intentional daily contacts with every student. From teacher to teacher--nothing is more important than the human connection. Make those connections every day.

How do you make connections and build relationships as part of your daily routines? Share your ideas in the comments below to help other practitioners as they prepare for the start of the new academic year.


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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