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Nov 15, 2023 |
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Editor’s Note: In celebration of Kentucky Family Engagement Week, NCFL invited 2020 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year Leila Kubesch to share her perspective on the importance of the teacher/parent relationship and how parents can begin to create those connections.

Ever found yourself hesitating at the school gates, wondering if your presence truly makes a difference? In the spirit of this week's focus on promoting and celebrating parental involvement in their child's education, let me share a personal journey that might resonate with you. Not so long ago, I stood where many parents stand today—unsure about stepping into the world of parent/teacher conferences. My hesitancy stemmed from unfamiliarity with the U.S. schooling system, making me question my potential contribution. But everything shifted when I embraced the world of education.

Now, with 26 years of teaching behind me, I've observed a consistent pattern: When parents transition from passive observers to active partners, the entire learning environment is supercharged. Your involvement is the secret sauce to your child's success. If you're seeking a deeper connection with your child’s school experience, here's your roadmap.

Leila Kubesch, 2020 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year

1. Foster Genuine Teacher Connections Early

Meeting your child’s teacher at the beginning of the school year does more than exchange formalities. It establishes a foundational relationship. Dive deeper—discuss your child’s aspirations, strengths, or any challenges they face. Such details provide teachers invaluable context to guide and motivate your child throughout the year.

2. Share Your Unique Perspective

Each of us carries a wealth of experiences and skills. Picture this: a parent, skilled in photography, once elevated a routine class project into a memorable experience. Your personal touch, whatever it may be, can similarly enrich the school community.

3. Stay Connected and Curious

Kids sometimes omit mentioning the exciting new school activities or clubs. Regular interaction with teachers ensures you're always on top of such opportunities, providing the necessary support and encouragement your child may need.

4. Prioritize Clear Conversations

I recall an instance when a student mentioned a prolonged absence, later revealing it was due to a family tragedy. Big life changes are better communicated directly by parents. Such open exchanges ensure teachers are equipped to offer appropriate support.

5. Embrace Flexible Communication

In our digital age, staying connected has never been easier. If traditional meetings don’t suit, propose an alternate time or even a digital catch-up. The key is maintaining an open dialogue, however that looks.

6. Transform Teacher Interactions into Growth Opportunities

Engage in teacher interactions with these pillars in mind:

  • Regular Check-ins: Understand their preferred communication method and offer yours.
  • Current Details: Always keep contact information updated.
  • Home Learning Strategies: Discuss methods to enrich learning at home.
  • Lend a Helping Hand: Explore ways you can contribute to the classroom or school activities.
  • Encourage Curiosity: Foster a culture of asking if things seem unclear.
  • Show Gratitude: Teachers play a monumental role in our children's lives. Consider how you can ease their journey.

7. Celebrate the Power of Teamwork

Your child’s educational journey isn't a solo endeavor. It's a harmonious dance between parents and educators. Your involvement, no matter how big or small, signals to your child a profound message: you deeply value their education. This connection, this vested interest, goes way beyond the daily, "How was school today?" It tells them you’re invested, you care, and you're with them every step of the way.

Your role in your child's education isn't just as a spectator—it's as a vital team member. Dive in, participate, and witness how your active involvement can shape your child's future success. And remember, every step you take, every query you make, every effort you put forth makes a world of difference. Let's champion our children's success, hand in hand.


Leila Kubesch, the 2020 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year, stands at the forefront of educational change. As the visionary founder of Parents2Partners, she has dedicated her efforts to strengthening family-school ties. With a passion for education innovation, Leila frequently shares her insights as a speaker, inspiring many with her pioneering approach.

Learn more about Leila's work.


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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