Pine Ridge educator named national Family Teacher of the Year runner-up

$5,000 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year grant will expand family literacy outreach program

PINE RIDGE, S.D. – When Carol Whalen moved to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation a decade ago, she brought with her a passion for family literacy.

She built strong relationships with Oglala Lakota Nation families and has utilized those connections in the Family and Child Education (FACE) program she leads.

For these efforts, Toyota and the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) named Whalen 2018 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year runner-up. Whalen and the Pine Ridge School FACE Program received a $5,000 grant to expand family literacy outreach efforts.

“As educators we only have our students so many hours in a day,” Whalen said. “By equipping parents with materials to continue their child’s education at home, they are empowered with the confidence to build a brighter future together. We must maximize our impact on the family otherwise we minimize our impact on the child.”

“Carol’s passion for early childhood and adult literacy is clearly reflected in Pine Ridge Schools’ FACE program,” said Josh Cramer, vice president, NCFL. “Her outreach to families during and afterschool hours strengthens those families and will have a lasting impact.”

Whalen encourages parents of the preschoolers in her class to join during school hours to participate in Parent and Child Together (PACT®) Time activities. For those unable to attend, she sends home materials and offers evening meetings for parents.

“Unemployment on our reservation is near 80 percent, so it’s difficult for most parents to focus on their child’s education when their health, finances and overall livelihood weigh heavy on their mind,” said Betty Wilson, early childhood co-teacher at Pine Ridge School. “Carol goes out of her way to meet families where they are and engage them in their child’s education.”

The Toyota Family Teacher of the Year award, a national honor now in its 22nd year, recognizes families play a crucial role in the success of children and salutes educators who are exceptional at using intergenerational approaches to engage students and their families in education.

Whalen and winner Beth Detwiler, of Oakland, Calif., will be recognized for their accomplishments at the annual NCFL Families Learning Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sept. 24.

The NCFL Families Learning Conference convenes the nation’s most progressive experts in education, policy, and family and parent engagement to discuss and share the latest information regarding two-generational approaches to learning.

“We’re proud to recognize Carol Whalen as Toyota Family Teacher of the Year runner-up for her passion to bring families together to learn,” said Mike Goss, general manager, Social Innovation, Toyota Motor North America.

Goss added: “The work of Beth and Carol will have a generational effect on their students and the families for many years to come.”

Since 1997, Toyota’s Family Teacher of the Year winner, runner-up and their respective organizations have received more than $500,000.

Information and photos from the National Center for Families Learning