Building stronger families and stronger communities: Passion and energy

Throughout 2018, NCFL’s Education Solutions blog is exploring the effective habits of past Toyota Teachers of the Year.  Many of these award-winning teachers felt that they had to create energy around family engagement in their schools. This energy came from their own passion for working with families. When practitioners fully embrace family learning programming, it is their energy and passion that drive the work.

NCFL Education Solutions

Teachers of the Year offered the following insights as to how to accomplish this goal:

View Challenge as an Opportunity

Teachers mentioned they felt it important to see a challenge as an opportunity. Addressing that opportunity in an energetic way helps to ease the challenge. Early childhood teacher Amy Hall of Wilson, Michigan, shared, “When I see a negative behavior, it is an opportunity to remind myself that children and adults walk in the door each day with different challenges. I want to be part of their successes.” For Amy, that meant putting forth the energy necessary to help that family succeed. Whether arriving at school early to prepare, visiting families at home and delivering activities and homework packets, checking to make sure families are okay, or transporting them to school or events—Amy puts the energy into her families, every single day. In turn, that energy manifests itself into a noticeable passion for her work.

Find Inspiration in Stories of Success

Similarly, Pat Urdialez of Mesa, Arizona, added, “When my students share their successes with me, it gives me more energy and more passion to do even more.” She continued with, “I believe in the impact that I have on them. If I show them energy and passion, it will come right back to me in their desire to learn, and in the effort they put forth. I think this is one of the reasons my classes are well attended and successful.” In this way, a cycle is created where practitioners can gain energy from the success of their families, and families are more successful due to the energy of their program leaders.

Focus on the Positive

Toyota Family Teachers of the Year frequently mentioned being positive and always using a positive approach with families. Lorie Preheim of Washington, DC, shared that she makes it a habit to use a positive approach. “By looking for the good in everything, whether it be people, staff’s talents, materials, professional development, and seeing how that can support and improve the work, you create a positive environment with continuous program improvement.” This positive outlook creates energy.

Emphasize Strengths

Remember that while many families and adult learners come to us because they have needs, we also should recognize their strengths.  Liz Atack of the Nashville Public Library, says that she focuses on strengths rather than telling parents about all the wrong things they are doing. She offers parents tips and ideas and explains why they are a good thing. “Often, parents are already doing some of these things (talking with or singing to their children, for example), and giving them encouragement to trust their instincts and go with what they know is very empowering for them.” Emphasizing strengths is another way to focus on the positive and create energy around our work.

2018 Toyota Teacher of the Year Nominations

Do you know an educator who is innovative, energetic and passionate about family engagement in learning? Consider nominating them for the 2018 Toyota Teacher of the Year. This esteemed award recognizes the positive impact of teachers who engage families through exemplary practices in school and community-based educational programming. Along with recognition, this award comes with a $20,000 grant to implement innovative ideas for expanding the recipient’s program to benefit families and/or to engage more families. One runner-up will be awarded $5,000. In addition, both winners will receive their awards September 24-26, 2018, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, at the 2018 Families Learning Conference. Both will receive a scholarship and travel stipend to participate. (Conference attendance is required to receive the awards.) For more information or make a nomination, click here.