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Liza’s Story: Liza Marie White is a wife, mother, and community advocate who is passionate about creating positive change in education, particularly in relation to family-school engagement. Liza’s interest in and commitment to strengthening family-school-community partnerships is informed by her prior experiences as a public-school student and current role as a mother of four children. Growing up as the daughter of a Honduran, immigrant mother, Liza experienced first-hand how barriers to family involvement, such as language and cultural differences, negatively shape parent-school relations and student learning outcomes. Liza’s mother, like many 21st century parents, worked multiple jobs to support her family, which ultimately impacted her ability to fully engage in Liza’s school or education. Reflecting back on her childhood and the experiences of many parents today, Liza states, “there are parents that are working two, three jobs and just don’t have the time to show up at school, but they still care about the quality of education that their child’s receiving.” This revelation inspired Liza to not only advocate for own children but also motivated her to empower other parents to take charge of their children’s education.

As a CPLAN leader, Liza has worked to educate and inspire other parents to take their seat at the table. In addition to her belief about the need for parents to be proactive about their children’s education, Liza also strongly believes that schools must move beyond traditional notions of family involvement and establish creative ways to communicate and connect with families. For instance, she feels that schools should recognize that while some parents may not be able to show up to every school meeting, those same parents would be more than happy to write a paragraph for the newsletter or cut out sight words for an in-class reading activity. Ultimately, Liza believes that the key to successful family-school partnerships is relationship building. Specifically, she argues that educators must work toward engaging parents on an individual level and have meaningful conversations with parents about what it means to be a partner in the educational endeavor – only then can families, schools, and communities coalesce to create positive change in education.

Liza’s advocacy goals: Liza’s goal is to figure out ways to build meaningful connections between families, schools, and communities. She seeks to build capacity among both families and education professionals. According to Liza, schools must be innovative in their approach to engaging families; therefore, she has become dedicated to developing strategies and toolkits to help families and educators to craft a new vision for family engagement.

Areas of Expertise: Family Engagement, Parent Capacity-building, School Capacity

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