Colleen Ryan said she didn't see it coming when Toyota representatives visited her school with a big surprise for her.

She thought the unfamiliar people and TV cameras were on hand to recognize Rivermont's recent academic success.  With the entire student body, faculty and parents looking on, Ryan was named national Toyota Family Teacher of the Year. The kindergarten teacher was surprised with a $20,000 check from Toyota and the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL). 

Toyota representatives say they selected Ryan for her work in the mobile classroom called “The Passage.” Previously recognized on the Ellen DeGeneres show, the Passage is a school bus with learning activities for children and families.  Ryan and her partner Brittany Harris, an academic coach, started the mobile classroom to take education into local neighborhoods. Since 2016, the teachers have offered lessons in math, science, and literacy.  

Ryan told Channel 3 she plans to use the money to help grow the program, and provide maintenance for the bus.

Ryan will be recognized at the annual NCFL Families Learning Conference in Louisville, Kentucky in November.  Organizers say 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.”

The Toyota Family Teacher of the Year award is in its 23rd year of recognizing educators who engage students and their families in education.