Mireira Escobar used to be afraid to talk to her 10-year-old daughter’s teachers.
The 35-year-old El Salvadoran immigrant couldn’t speak English well enough to carry on a conversation. But then she went to school herself — at the Plano Family Literacy School.
And on Thursday, Escobar gave a speech, in perfect English, about her new-found language, math and technology skills to several Plano bigwigs.
“Because I learned to do all these things, my life is better,” she said.
Plano ISD superintendent Dr. Brian Binggeli, Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, city council members, and Toyota officials gave Escobar a standing ovation after her speech at the launch of The Toyota Family Learning program.
Jane Lilliston, program director of the Plano Family Literacy School, said she couldn’t be more proud of Escobar.
“I had to do everything in my power not to cry,” she said. “To see that empowerment working, by standing up there and doing .. it never gets old.”
The program, which aims to solve educational inequality, is funded by a $175,000 grant funded by Toyota, Plano’s biggest new resident. Plano is the 11th community to become part of Toyota Family Learning. The National Center for Families Learning runs the program.
More than 200 people have enrolled since the program was officially launched in September at the Plano Family Literacy School and Sigler Elementary School.
The program was first launched nationally in 2013. It allows parents and their preschool-aged children to spend 20 hours a week during the entire school year learning language literacy, job skills, decision-making and other subjects.
Binggeli, the superintendent, said the program helps parents and children have quality time together.
Toyota made a $1 million donation to the district in 2014, shortly after the news of their headquarters move was announced.
He said he remembers reading Dr. Seuss’s “Put Me in the Zoo” to his daughter when she was a child. Looking back, he said he doesn’t remember everything he did during the day before story time.
“But, I can remember reading “Put Me in the Zoo” like I did it last night,” he said. “And if that parent-child experience was universal in America, then a lot of the time and energy and resources we are pouring in to try and close achievement gaps in the K-12 education would probably not be necessary.”
Escobar said that she enjoys learning alongside her 4-year-old, Maggie.
“Now Maggie knows English even better than me,” she said. “And she can count to 100.”
And Escobar’s older daughter Jackie’s grades “are higher now than ever before.” Next year she will be going into honors math.
Escobar said hopes others will be encouraged to apply to the school.
“I tell my friends to learn English, because it’s like open house for you in this country, do it for your kids, not just for you,” she said. “Because your kids are the future of this country, so they need you to learn English to help them.”