Stronger Families, Stronger Communities

20 Years of Highly Effective Teaching Practices Supporting Two-Generation Learning

From: National Center for Families Learning

Learn more about our new Teacher of the Year book, Stronger Families, Stronger Communities

Learn more

You are invited to attend National Center for Families Learning's free Family Teacher of the Year webinar events! This webinar series is based on a new book now available from NCFL, Stronger Families, Stronger Communities: 20 Years of Highly Effective Teaching Practices Supporting Two-Generation Learning. View more details and purchase by clicking here.

Stronger Families, Stronger Communities uncovers the common practices of 20 of the nation's best teachers-those receiving the Toyota Family Teacher of the Year Award across two decades -highlighting their most effective teaching strategies for supporting two-generation learning.

With a firm commitment to families, these award-winning teachers share their approaches to strengthening families and communities. The hard work and determination of each of these Toyota Family Teacher of the Year recipients go well beyond the basic tasks of teaching in order to best support families and help them succeed at life.

Their stories inspire and motivate. Their collective wisdom provides valuable insight for family learning practitioners. The teachers taught and personalized their teaching to each student. They shared and gave of themselves. They showed up and never gave students less than what they deserved. Their lessons learned provide insight into what works and what doesn't work-but perhaps more importantly, what worked for them.

We invite you into their two-generation worlds to read their stories, reflect on their practices, and benefit from their experiences-creating stronger families and communities. You'll hear from five of these high-performing teachers in this Webinar series.

Author Highlights - Teacher to Teacher

  • Dr. Josh Cramer, NCFL
  • Kim Jacobs, NCFL
  • Patricia Lovett, NCFL

Kristen Whitaker - Teacher to Teacher Webinar 1

Award Year – 2015 High School History Teacher, Columbia Heights Educational Campus, Washington, DC. As a full time history teacher, Kristen works to engage families of her students through home visits. According to her principal, Maria Tukeva, Kristen has developed family engagement skills that go well beyond the expectations and imagination of the school. Maria shares that, “Through perseverance and continual learning, Kristen devised countless ways of using what she learned about families and students during home visits, to differentiate her classroom teaching." Kristen is the only high school teacher to receive the Toyota Teacher of the Year award.

Elizabeth Atack - Teacher to Teacher Webinar 2

Award Year – 2014 Library Program Manager, Nashville Public Library, Nashville, Tennessee Elizabeth (Liz) Atack works at Nashville Public Library (NPL), where she oversees Bringing Books to Life (BBTL), a preschool literacy outreach program. In addition to managing the program's daily and long range operations, she is on the front lines of helping kids learn (and love!) to read, juggling story times, trainings for teachers and reading workshops for parents. Under her leadership, BBTL has won local and national awards. Locally, Liz is the vice chair of Alignment Nashville's Pre-K Team and serves on advisory boards for local early education and parent engagement organizations. Before coming to NPL in 2007, Liz was a teacher and museum educator. She graduated from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and holds a Master's Degree in Childhood Museum Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York City.

NCFL’S Donna Elder & Patricia Lovett - Teacher to Teacher Webinar 3

Amy Hall- Teacher to Teacher Webinar 4

Award Year – 2005 Early Childhood Teacher, Hannahville Community School FACE Program, Wilson, Michigan Amy holds a Bachelor's Degree with teacher certification in Child Care, Family Life Education, and Home Economics. She was the early childhood teacher for the Hannahville Family and Child Education (FACE) program on the Potowatomi Reservation, Hannahville, Michigan, at the time of her award. She has extensive experience working with children from birth to five years of age, in her community and in northern Michigan. Eleven years after the Teacher of the Year honor, and after 18 years of working in the Hannahville FACE program, Amy is still very much involved in working with families. A few years ago, she traded in her preschool teacher hat to work more closely with the adults in the adult education classroom.


Award Year – 2016 Parent Educator, South Shore Hospital, Weymouth, MA Jean Ciborowski Fahey, Ph.D., has been active in the field of early literacy for nearly 40 years. Jean designed the South Shore Hospital Reading Partnership to educate the community about the profound opportunity parents have to build a reading brain in a children's first five years, and prevent children from experiencing early reading problems. Jean teaches, blogs, and speaks on a variety of early literacy topics, targeting parents and those who work with parents. Prior to working at South Shore Hospital, Jean assessed young children for reading difficulties at Children's Hospital/Harvard Medical School, worked as an adjunct language and literacy professor at Lesley University, and as an early literacy specialist with the national office of Reach Out and Read. At the Massachusetts State Department of Education, office of Adult Basic Education, she coordinated family literacy services for Massachusetts' most vulnerable families.

Mark Faloni - Teacher to Teacher Webinar 6

Award Year – 2006 Adult Education/ESL Instructor, Briya Public Charter School, Washington, DC After graduating from college with degrees in Spanish and education, Mark knew he wanted to work in the Latino community. Originally from Baltimore, where there wasn't a huge Latino community in the late 1980's, he decided to move closer to the District of Columbia where the immigrant population was much larger. His professional career began when he took a job with an Even Start Program as an ESL teacher, working with Latino high schoolers and their babies. Twenty-some years later, Mark still works in the program, serving upwards of 450-500 student families on a yearly basis. Collaborating with Mary's Center and Briya Public Charter School, the program's plan and vision continues in that educated families can be healthier families.

For more information contact Patricia Lovett»

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