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3 Lessons from Flamboyan’s REAL Family Engagement Training Season 

By Epernay Kyles
Director of Training + Facilitation

I was first introduced to Flamboyan Foundation 10 years ago as a Pre-K teacher. I still remember the lightbulb moment of learning about academic partnering — instead of sharing with parents that their child was succeeding or failing, we could work collaboratively to help kids meet shared goals. Since 2016, I’ve served as a family engagement lead and Flamboyan Teacher Trainer, until this August.

I started my new role during one of our busiest times – the summer training season. Our team held 31 training sessions with over 1,200 educators in attendance to enrich their knowledge of REAL Family Engagement practices.

After spending several months in constant motion, training teachers every day, meeting with our trainer cohort, and managing virtual and in-person logistics, we’ve since had the time to reflect on this season’s training and what questions we need to address to fully support our schools here in Washington, DC and nationally moving forward. We have three key takeaways from our 2023 training season.

Educators need and want ongoing training on bias and mindset. 

Epernay Kyles leading our Bias and Mindsets training for educators.

It’s exciting to see how Flamboyan’s perspectives on equity and our training approach have evolved over the past 10 years. We’ve done a lot to reframe our assumptions. For example, when I went through the training in 2014, we said teachers should attend the home visit in pairs for safety reasons. Now we say that attending in pairs allows teachers to be listening partners and develop a deeper relationship with the family, since you are not taking notes.  

While Flamboyan has always talked about equity and checking implicit biases, we haven’t always had separate training for bias and mindset like when we relate to the E in REAL, where educators challenge their biases and build asset-based beliefs. One reflection from this year is that our schools are asking for continued support in this area and for all teachers and staff in the building to have access to this type of training.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact communication and relationships between schools and families.

Educators at a Flamboyan training having a discussion.

Over the past few years, Flamboyan has shifted our training and how we talk about relationship development to recognize the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning on relationships between families and schools. Instead of concentrating only on Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT), we talk about academic partnering, since we know that the way families and educators get together can look different. We’ve focused on how to build relationships virtually. We continue to hear families say that they don’t quite feel welcome back in the building, that they don’t know how to connect or communicate with their child’s teacher. We want to work with educators to build both the mindsets and the skill sets to develop strong relationships with the families of all the children they serve.

REAL Family Engagement practices are important for every member of the school community. 

Educators and school building staff attending a Flamboyan Training at Tubman Elementary School.

One of my proudest moments from summer training is how Turner Elementary School in Southeast DC decided to show up: they sent every single one of their educators and staff, including substitute teachers and custodians. You could see that some folks were questioning why they were not in the classroom with students. But by the end of the session, they understood that family engagement is about building relationships with students at every level. Even if you aren’t teaching them mathematics, you can still ask them how their day or learning is going. 

We are thinking about how to consider this as we build our future trainer cohorts. We want to ensure that our trainers look like the schools they represent, since we have people in all types of roles supporting our students, reflecting the community, and engaging in storytelling about our schools. We’re looking forward to sharing what we learn in upcoming opportunities! 

Are you an educator with thoughts on enhancing our training in the future? Please email me at We’re always open to feedback and appreciate input as we support REAL Family Engagement in our partner schools.