Toyota representatives visited Rivermont Elementary Friday morning with a special surprise at a school assembly naming Colleen Ryan their national Toyota Family Teacher of the Year. Ms. Ryan, a kindergarten teacher, was surprised with a $20,000 check from Toyota and the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL). Children at cheered their teacher as she was joined on stage by family and friends during the presentation.
Toyota selected Ms.
Ryan for her work in the community on the mobile classroom called “The Passage” which is a retired school bus painted red and filled with learning activities for children and families. Ms. Ryan and her partner Brittany Harris, an academic coach in Hamilton County Schools, started the classroom on wheels program to help children and families outside of the regular school day. The mobile learning experience works with children and their parents on the bus. “The Passage” offers 20-minute lessons in math, science, and literacy. Parents and students build a notebook full of strategies, games, and resources that can be used later to help children study.
“We want to buy an additional bus to make the program available to even more children so this check will help make that a reality,” said Ms. Ryan when asked how she would use the money. “Our goal is to eventually have a bus serving each of the five learning communities in Hamilton County Schools.”
The classroom on wheels visits student’s homes, recreation centers, and daycares in the community to provide educational assistance for families. Since the bus started its travels in November 2016, 75 percent of the children in families served have increased literacy skills, 80 percent have improved math skills, and 85 percent have engaged in more positive behavior in school.
“Colleen Ryan is a perfect example of how Toyota operates, relying on innovation to help solve societal issues and challenges,” said Mike Goss, general manager, Social Innovation, Toyota Motor North America. “She took it upon herself to create a mobile learning/educational center on wheels, tackling the problem of not only improving the education of families but, also, overcoming the issues of transportation for the recipients. Providing mobility answers to those who need them most is what drives us every day. It is a true honor to name Colleen the 2019 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year.”
Ms. Ryan will be recognized at the annual NCFL Families Learning Conference in Louisville, Kentucky on November 5, 2019. The conference convenes the nation’s most progressive experts in education, policy, and family and parent engagement to share information on multigenerational approaches to learning.
“Colleen’s dedication to improving the lives of Hamilton County families through two-generational learning is remarkable,” said Dr. Joshua Cramer, executive vice president, NCFL. “Research shows family engagement leads to student academic success. We are honored to recognize Colleen as our 2019 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year.”
“Hamilton County Schools is proud of Colleen and her innovative efforts to help our children and families build a brighter future,” said Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent, Hamilton County Schools. “Colleen’s passion for connecting community partnerships with educational opportunities lifts up families, empowers parents, and inspires children to higher academic achievement in the classroom.”
The Toyota Family Teacher of the Year award is in its 23rd year of recognizing educators who engage students and their families in education.