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Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops. Henry Brooks Adams

We are all impacted by teachers. From our early years to adolescence and beyond, the teachers in our lives guided and shaped us, offering us the tools we needed to grow and thrive.

In these trying times, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) and Toyota pause to recognize and applaud our nation’s teachers for all that they do for our families and our communities. Today we announce the opening of the nomination period for the 2020 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year, and invite you to take this time away from school to nominate a deserving educator in your life.

Twenty-four years ago, NCFL and Toyota initiated a partnership to recognize the positive impact of U.S. teachers who engage families in educational programming in extraordinary ways. This year, two more educators will be honored.

NCFL is seeking school- or community-based teachers who are passionate about engaging families and who demonstrate exemplary practices as candidates for the 2020 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year. Strong candidates will be family teachers who serve parents and children using a substantive multigenerational approach to help them learn together in innovative ways. Candidates should have a demonstrated record of success and serve communities and families with high literacy and socioeconomic needs.

Through this process, NCFL and Toyota hope to provide seeds for growth. Winning candidates will develop innovative ideas for expanding their program to benefit families and/or to engage more families. Through a short video, blog post, and social media, NCFL will work with the winner to share their story with educators and administrators across the country. 

School- and community-based teachers who are exceptional at engaging families are eligible for nomination. The 2020 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year will receive a $20,000 grant award and the runner-up a $5,000 grant award to implement/expand their respective programs.

Additional nomination requirements can be found here. Nominations must be submitted online no later than 11:59 p.m. PDT on Friday, June 27, 2020. Questions or additional assistance may be directed to Angel Chichester,

Nominate a teacher today!

This is the first of a three-part series about emotional and behavioral regulation in learning environments.

One of the newer movements in education over the past decade is trauma-informed education. Why is it necessary to be aware of what this phenomenon looks like? 

It’s our job, as practitioners and educators, to create a safe space for students—as much as we can—so they can focus on learning. And let’s face it, today, almost everyone has trauma in their past—if not their present.

We’ll start by defining what trauma is and why we need trauma-informed education. 

Trauma can be physical or emotional. Or both. It’s easy to see physical trauma, but psychological trauma depletes our ability to adapt emotionally, cognitively, physically, spiritually, and socially. Both physical and emotional trauma have activated the fight-or-flight mode in our bodies. It can be caused by a one-time event or a series of events. Check out Psychology Today for more information on trauma.

One thing we know: School districts can mitigate the effects of some trauma by implementing Family Literacy programming. In NCFL’s publication, Defining Our Work, practitioners are able to see the impact Family Literacy has on families. Parents increase their skills and are better able to support their children's education as well as increase their employment opportunities. It may not be a quick-fix for trauma, but it’s a step in the right direction. Building positive relationships is a partial solution; that’s something practitioners can—and should—do in the classroom. Without solid relationships, working with trauma survivors can be superficial. Someone with childhood trauma could struggle with even the most basic of skills--such as writing a sentence with a noun and a verb—without a positive relationship. 

Collective trauma affects a community or country and can also be a one-time or series of events. Family Service Learning is one way families can identify problems in their neighborhood and create a plan to address them. In this way, adults and children working together build their 21st century skills and develop the ability to be flexible and adapt. They also show initiative and self-direction, improve social and cross-cultural skills, and demonstrate productivity and accountability as well as leadership and responsibility per NCFL’s Family Service Learning Brief. This investment in community can be part of the healing process for this type of trauma.

If we use human-centered design (HCD) and other learner-driven theories of instruction, we are taking into account trauma. HCD is a powerful tool that brings in three important perspectives: getting to know learners, developing new ideas to meet learner needs, and planning and testing new solutions. Empathy is the key. Both as students and teachers, adding empathy to the mix is essential. In this article, the benefits of HCD in a family engagement setting are discussed. However, HCD can be applied to the PK-12 setting as well. Other classroom instructional design strategies that are beneficial for students—in general, as well as those with trauma—include Understanding by Design and Layered Curriculum

The days of the talking head in front of the classroom are over. Students don’t need us to deliver instruction as much as they need us to share ideas reciprocally. By taking into account learners’ experiences, we validate them as people. There are definitely areas in which a student can be an expert and share their knowledge—even youngsters.

Do you use trauma-informed practices in your classroom? Have you adapted any strategies that could be considered trauma-informed? Sound off in the comments about the pluses and minuses. 

Grab a book, a magazine, or your e-reader! It’s time to celebrate. Tell your program participants, your coworkers,  your students, or your friends. March is National Reading Month! An entire month to focus on the importance of reading in our lives. Reading helps us to stay in touch, to be informed, and to escape into great stories. Reading together is a positive experience for children and adults. Families create happy memories around books and stories. Parents and caregivers demonstrate to their children that they value reading. Children have opportunities to talk and laugh with their parents. Families connect and bond.

According to Scholastic’s most recent Kids and Family Reading Report, most parents agreed that it was important to read to their young children. However, only 58% of parents actually read to their preschool-aged children 5 to 7 days each week. Sadly, as children grow older, families read together even less. Only 21% of surveyed parents regularly read with their nine- to eleven-year-olds.  

As practitioners, we have an opportunity to educate parents and caregivers in order to encourage families to read together at home. Here are a few ideas for celebrating National Reading Month in your school or program while focusing on the importance of reading together:

  • Model a family book club during Parent Time. Choose a short chapter book that would be fun for the whole family, such as the classic "Mr. Popper’s Penguins" by Richard Atwater or "The Tale of Despareauxby Kate DiCamillo.  The participants in your program can take turns reading a few paragraphs aloud just as families would do at home. Individuals who are not comfortable reading aloud can listen to the story. Take time to ask questions and discuss information about children’s reading development. Read throughout the month until your group finishes the whole book. If funds are available, provide each family a copy of the same book so that they can read it together for at-home PACT Time®. 
  •  Use books in your Parent Time lessons on children’s social-emotional learning. A story, like "Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse" by Kevin Henkes, can be a springboard for discussions around managing anger and apologizing. An excerpt from a novel, such as "Rules" by Cynthia Lord, can provide an opportunity to talk about disabilities and social norms. Discuss as a group how parents might respond to the situations presented and make connections to participants' own lives.
  • Play an audiobook during your arrival time. Allow participants to summarize and discuss. This practice gives purpose to those opening minutes and models for parents and caregivers another way to incorporate reading into their families routines. Classic stories, like "Charlotte’s Web" by E.B. White or "Matilda" by Roald Dahl, are perfect for all ages.
  • In a Parent Time lesson focused on healthy eating, try a new recipe! Read the recipe together in advance and make a grocery list. Then work together to prepare the dish during class.  Recipes provide not only an authentic reason to read, but practice in life skills as well as math concepts. Follow-up by having families do an activity on healthy eating during PACT Time® and then finish up by trying the food you made together.
  •  Kids are always asking curious questions! Support families in reading to find answers by hosting a family event centered around®. For more information, check out NCFL’s free Family Learning Event Guide which includes suggestions for planning events as well as a detailed plan for a Wonderopolis® event.
  • Take a field trip to visit your local library! Yes, libraries do story times and have books for check out, but 21st century libraries offer so much more. You might find classes in yoga or teen programs focused on coding. You can access digital resources, such as magazines, cookbooks, or audio books, from your own device at no charge.

During National Reading Month, use these ideas to support your families in building routines and creating traditions around reading. Help your families see that reading is not just a subject that they study in school, but an essential part of life. An activity that creates bonds, helps us to understand the world, and enriches our lives.

How is your school or program celebrating National Reading Month? Add your ideas in the comments below. Everyone who comments will receive a free PDF copy of NCFL’s handout for parents and caregivers on Making Reading Interactive.

Stories inspire us to take action, affect change, and carry on. The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) is calling for past and present family literacy and family learning students to share their stories this fall to inspire practitioners and peers across the country.

NCFL is seeking student speakers for its 2020 Families Learning Conference, which will be held Oct. 19-21 in Dallas. Each year during the Conference, students share their learning stories with attendees during General Sessions (a time when all attendees are gathered together at once). These stories of determination, hard work, and achievement motivate us all.

In addition to the opportunity to tell their story in front of approximately 1,000 family literacy and family learning professionals, student speakers receive all travel, lodging, and registration expenses for the Families Learning Conference courtesy of NCFL.

In order to be considered for a student speaker role, individuals must have attended a family literacy or family learning program with a two-generational learning component and completed at least one year in the program. Applicants must also have prior public speaking experience. All other requirements can be found on the Student Speaker Application page.

Applications may be completed by a student or someone nominating a student. To view questions before beginning a nomination, you can download a PDF version of the application here. All nominations are due by 11:59 p.m. PDT on Friday, May 1, 2020. For assistance or questions, please contact Carrie Wohlschlegel at

Inspire practitioners across the country with your story or the story of a student you know. Apply to be a student speaker at the 2020 Families Learning Conference today!

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