Sit down for a conversation with Dae Selcer and right away you’ll sense her enthusiasm and passion for her work with families. Selcer is a multilingual learner teacher and program coordinator at Prodeo Elementary Academy in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. Described by her colleagues as a “stalwart advocate for multilingual learners and their families,” Selcer is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive classroom that is co-designed in partnership with families. And it is that commitment that helped earn her the title of 2022 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year runner-up, a national designation that recognizes outstanding educators who are exceptional in engaging families in learning.
For 26 years, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) and Toyota have partnered to recognize educators across the nation who use a strong multi-generational approach to learning and focus on building effective family–school partnerships that support student achievement and school improvement. The award announcement was made public today during the Families Learning Conference by Michael Medalla, manager of Toyota USA Foundation + Workforce Readiness. Selcer, and winner Ivonne Ortiz of Mesa, Arizona, were surprised with news of their awards earlier this month.
“Toyota has partnered with NCFL to recognize outstanding educators for nearly three decades because we know family engagement has the power to transform families and communities for generations to come,” says Medalla. “Ivonne and Dae represent the best of the best in engaging multiple generations in learning together, and we are honored to recognize them with these awards."
Selcer highly prioritizes active listening and family voice, striving to always ask her families for input. She builds programming that is responsive to their needs rather than just offering a “bag of tricks.” She says, “If you come in with an idea of what the community needs, it’s a misstep.” Selcer has also cultivated impactful relationships with community partners that directly support her school and families.
"Ivonne and Dae are educators committed to working alongside parents and children to create authentic learning pathways for their students,” says Dr. Felicia C. Smith, NCFL’s president and CEO. “By working with whole families and connecting their efforts to larger systems supporting adult learners and children, they are changing the course for how their communities advance equity outcomes and build toward a brighter future where families can thrive and contribute in meaningful ways."
“From the first moment, our multilingual learners (MLL) join the Prodeo Academy family, Dae’s work shows them they've made the right choice and are in good hands,” says Steven Ward, principal of Prodeo Elementary Academy, Columbia Heights. “Her impact is evident—hugs and words of appreciation for her service to our scholars are abundant. Her passion is literacy and reading for all, and doing that in an equitable way. Her investment in this important work pays off significantly for our scholars. MLL students outperformed other MLL students on state standards testing in the Twin Cities Metro area and the state of Minnesota. But more important than data is the real-life advocacy and agency Ms. Selcer builds in our students and families. It will last them a lifetime.”
Ortiz’s school will receive $20,000 to implement a family leadership program aimed at fostering authentic partnership among families and schools in her district. As runner-up, Selcer’s school will receive a $5,000 grant award to support her family engagement efforts. Since 1997, Toyota Family Teacher of the Year winners, runners-up, and their respective organizations have received $650,000 and funded 52 innovative teacher-led projects.
The other finalists for this award were previously announced and include Renee Dawson (Atlanta, Georgia), Barbara Toure (Washington, DC) and Analía Wells (Greensboro, North Carolina).
Check out WCCO's feature on Ms. Selcer and her work.