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Toyota Family Teacher of the Year Award Recognizes History Teacher

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Toyota Family Teacher of the Year

Kristin Whitaker receives the 2015 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year award

For the 19th year running, Toyota and the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) have awarded one outstanding individual the title of 2015 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year. This year, high school history teacher Kristin Whittaker received the award for her family-inclusive approach to educating her students, which involves her visiting a total of 37 families to help them stay in the loop about their children’s education.

Whitaker is in charge of family engagement efforts at Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC) in Washington, DC. The school’s student population is 100% minority, and 90% low-income, and the family engagement program helps involve parents and guardians more deeply in the education of their kids, which in turn helps the students thrive.

“Kristen believes strongly in the importance of meeting parents ‘where they are’ in order to build trust and achieve family goals,” commented CHEC Principal Maria Tukeva. “Her work has created a whole new energy around involving parents at CHEC.”

Whitaker has also coached her fellow teachers to make at-home visits to families, resulting in a combined 200 family visits by CHEC faculty members.

The 2015 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year award comes with a $20,000 grant, which Whitaker will use to fund a family summer camp for low-income students and their families. “The family summer camp Kristen plans is a great example of using the Toyota Family Teacher of the Year grant to employ the latest approaches to intergenerational learning in a program that will appeal to and reach entire families,” said Mike Goss, vice president of external affairs, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America.

Donna LaBeaume, a virtual pre-kindergarten coach from San Antonio, Texas, was named as a runner-up. She will receive a $5,000 grant to help continue her mission, which aims to increase childhood literacy rates among over 100 mostly Hispanic families via technology and parent coaching. LaBeaume will use the money to help continue her efforts to help these families, as well as other families in need.