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Byron V. Garrett, ILA General Session Speaker, on the Importance of a Home–School Connection

By Lara Deloza
 | May 30, 2017
Byron Garrett

Throughout his long and storied career, Byron V. Garrett has worn many hats. School principal. Community advocate. Policy advisor. Author. Consultant. Strategist.

His cross-sector journey—which includes everything from serving as CEO of the National (United States) Parent Teacher Association to his current role as director of Educational Leadership & Policy for Microsoft—has afforded him a unique perspective on the field of education. And where he chooses to focus his attention is transforming education through meaningful family engagement.

It’s a topic that resonates with Garrett on a personal level. He saw firsthand how low levels of family involvement can stunt a child’s learning potential when one of his nephews—the son of Garrett’s incarcerated older brother—fell two years behind.

That’s when Garrett realized how important it was to rethink the scope of the family.

“It’s not just a mom or dad who are responsible for the education of young people,” the Scholastic author says. “We actually have a collective and shared responsibility, whether you’re a business exec, a faith-based leader, a community partner, or whether you work for the district or the school system. We all have a role to play in improving the lives of young people and definitely making sure they get a quality education.

“But we also know,” he adds, “that it starts from home.”

It’s this mind-set that led him to found the National Family Engagement Alliance (NFEA), a nonprofit dedicated to helping educators and families forge partnerships that support a student’s academic success.

“Parents have access beyond the bell to help shape what a student does or does not learn beyond the actual classroom,” Garrett said in an interview with EdSurge. “It’s great to have families as a partner in the education process.”

That home–school connection, he maintains, is the best way to help kids “define, work toward, and accomplish their goals.” Strong guidance from parents, guardians, and educators provides an equally strong foundation for empowerment.

In one of his parent-focused columns for The Huffington Post, Garrett urges families to reach out to their child’s teacher to create a “joint plan for greatness.”

“You’re not going to do this alone,” he writes, “and as a lifelong educator, I know that your child’s teacher would love to help your child achieve their full potential.”

Garrett encourages those same teachers to make sure families are not only given a seat at the table, but also welcomed there.

“Family engagement empowers a child to identify and become their best self,” he says.

It not only allows them to work toward greatness in the classroom, but it also allows them to recognize the greatness within themselves.

Lara Deloza is the senior communications manager at ILA.

Byron V. Garrett will speak during Closing General Session of the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits on Monday, July 17. For more information, visit ilaconference.org.

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