- The Washington Times - Friday, January 27, 2006

A D.C. public schoolteacher received a national award yesterday for his efforts to help Hispanic parents teach English to their children.

Mark Faloni received the 2006 Toyota Family Literacy Teacher of the Year award at Bancroft Elementary School in the largely Hispanic neighborhood of Mount Pleasant.

“Teaching is like life, and both should be lived to the fullest,” said Mr. Faloni, who has taught English as a Second Language programs in the District and Northern Virginia for 20 years. His program, which he founded at Bancroft in 1989, focuses on teaching Hispanic parents English so they can help their children succeed in school.

“As educators, we are continually looking for ways to reach beyond the classroom and [affect] students’ lives,” Mr. Faloni said.

He also gives computer literacy instruction to parents to enhance their job skills.

The award was presented by Toyota and the National Center for Family Literacy and included a $5,000 grant.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, and the D.C. Director of Latino Affairs Gustavo Valasquez were among those who attended the event.

“I, too, am an immigrant,” Mr. Graham said to the crowd of parents, teachers and students that assembled for the award ceremony. “When we came here I spoke some English, but my parents did not. However, they did the best they could. … Today, Mr. Faloni, we appreciate what you do.”

Sharon Darling, the literacy center’s founder and president, said children whose parents are involved in their lives and help them with homework have higher attendance rates and fewer discipline issues.

“Eighty-four percent of parents in the program have reported that their children’s grades improved,” she said. “Without the entire nation behind family literacy, things are not going to happen.”

Mr. Faloni’s classes take place in a public school building, but the adult-learning program is funded mostly with private money and grants. It is overseen by Mary’s Center, which promotes health care, social services and family literacy in the area.

“This private money from Toyota acts as a catalyst to enable us to put more programs into place,” Mrs. Darling said.

Toyota became involved in the area in 1996, when it donated $350,000 to the literacy center. The company has given the center $23 million to help establish about 196 programs in 33 cities and 24 states across the country.

Mr. Faloni’s program at Bancroft was picked from hundreds of applications.

“These parents brave the cold weather and get on buses — sometimes carrying two crying children — to get to this school,” he said. “They deserve our help.”

The ceremony also was attended by Wilma Bonner, the assistant superintendent of D.C. public schools, and Pat Pineda, a vice president for Toyota Motor North America.

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