Four Things to Know This Spring

Announcing The Biogen Idec Foundation as the first National Innovation Partner

We are proud to announce The Biogen Idec ​Foundation ​​as our first National Innovation Partner​ thanks to a generous three-year investment of $1.5 million​. The Foundation’s support will ​allow the organization to scale ​science, technology, engineering, and math (​STEM)​ ​programming nationally. The Biogen Idec Community Labs in MA and NC have engaged employee volunteers who ​work​​ side-by-side with students each semester, helping them transform into junior scientists by using the same state-of-the-art equipment and tools that the scientists utilize to discover and create new medicine.

Meet in the Middle: Expanded Learning Summit

Citizen Schools and Higher Achievement are partnering with other leaders in the expanded learning field, including Million Women Mentors, US2020, National Center on Time & Learning, Spark, ExpandED Schools by TASC, and America Forward to host a day-long summit on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Summit will bring together a wide rage of voices–from policy makers to practitioners–to focus on making expanded learning opportunities the new normal for all students. Register, save the date, and add your voice to the discussion here!

New York and New Jersey Regions Merge

​We are proud to announce that the New York and New Jersey regions of Citizen Schools have merged into a single regional entity, Citizen Schools New York-New Jersey. This integration, which began February 2 and be completed by July 1 of this year, provides us with a vital opportunity to better serve our current students in both states, and grow to serve more families going forward.​ As Citizen Schools continues to grow, this reorganization will allow us to continue our successful partnership with you in service of high-quality education for all children — education that provides students with meaningful opportunities to achieve academic success and realize their dreams.  


Upcoming Spring Benefits

Don’t miss one of our exciting celebrations in Massachusetts, North Carolina, or California!

20th Anniversary Gala: Celebrating Extraordinary Citizens: To honor Citizen Schools’ 20th anniversary year, the organization will celebrate, the Extraordinary Citizens – students, Citizen Schools alumni, teachers, and community leaders – who have made an incredible impact on communities across the country. The gala will be held in Boston, Citizen Schools’ founding city, at the Fairmont Copley Plaza on Tuesday, May 12th from 6:30-8:30pm. RSVP here.

3rd Annual Charlotte Celebrating Community Collaboration Benefit: You’re invited to celebrate the partnerships that continue to expand opportunities for middle school students in the Charlotte, NC community. The event will take place at the Mint Museum Uptown in Charlotte on Wednesday, April 1st from 8-9:30 am. RSVP here.  

benefitEd 2015: Join us at Tah.Mah.Lah, “America’s greenest home,” to celebrate learning. Walk through a gallery of student work and connect with the business and community leaders helping to transform the lives of middle school students.  The event will be held at Tah.Mah.Lah in Portola Valley, CA on Thursday, May 7th at 6pm. For tickets and sponsorship opportunities, visit 

It’s Time: Celebrating 20 Years of Citizen Schools

Guest Post from CEO Steven Rothstein

Over the past six months, as I have traveled the country and spoken to students, parents, ​AmeriCorps ​Teaching Fellows, ​principals, Citizen Teachers, and supporters, I have heard many stories about your experiences with Citizen Schools. ​There are many stories about moments in time when a call to action was made, and answered, with tremendous results.

I heard about Eric​ Schwarz​ and Ned ​Rimer ​who ​stood up 20 years ago and said: It’s Time to change the way people relate to our schools, and prove that everyone can help to close the opportunity gap for students. That call was the spark that led over 100,000 citizens to impact the lives of over 40,000 students.

I heard about the time, ten years later, when we decided: It’s Time to spread this idea to communities across the country. You answered the call and helped bring Citizen Schools to places like California, North Carolina, Texas, and New York.

I heard about the moment five years ago when we decided: It’s Time to prove that we can help close the opportunity gap for every student at ​the​ school​s we serve​. From ​that ​our Expanded Learning Time ​program ​was born, and together we proved that more learning time combined with more involved citizens can generate a powerful impact.

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This year, as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary, it is my humble belief that we have arrived at another of these moments in time. I believe that because of the passion and commitment I have heard from you. I believe that because I have seen what you have already accomplished.I hope you join me in saying once again: It’s Time. It’s time for Citizen Schools to reach hundreds of thousands of students with our program and our ideas. This will be the challenge of our next 5, 10, ​and 20 years. I hope you ​​join us in meeting it. If the past is any guide, I’m sure that you will.

In Service,




Campus Director Spotlight: Q&A with Matt Wheeler from Citizen Schools Texas

mattwheelerMatt Wheeler is Campus Director at the Edison Middle School in Houston, TX

As a Campus Director, Matt ensures students have a quality Extended Learning Time program that offers many different authentic academic experiences. Which is a multi-dimensional task and requires flexibility. Matt is in his second year as a Campus Director, currently leading a team of three Citizen Schools staff members.

What brought you to Citizen Schools?

It was the apprenticeships. In the education field you hear of authentic activities and authentic assessments stressed as instructional practices and how powerful they are for student achievement. When looking at the different program elements that Citizen Schools offered, I thought to myself that this is authenticity in the classroom. As a former classroom teacher, I strove to create authentic opportunities for students but often found it difficult to do so frequently primarily due to the lack resources available. Citizen Schools provides teachers and students with the resources, the expertise through Citizen Teachers, and the planning and structure through the driven Team Leaders (Americorps National Teaching Fellows and School Support Staff) to create these powerful and authentic opportunities for our shared students.

What has working here meant to you?

Working here has meant learning to serve our students through supporting my Americorps National Teaching Fellow campus team. Whether it be supporting them logistically, operationally, instructionally, or simply listening to them during our one-on-one meetings, I have learned that when I do everything I can to support their needs, they are better able to serve our students.

What was your biggest achievement since you began working here?

My biggest achievement is a collection of the many fascinating and powerful observations I have seen as a result of the Citizen Schools program on my campus. Some of these include seeing 6th -graders creating electrical circuits and intelligently discussing ohms with a NASA engineer, watching a group of students finish a 5k run and receive medals, and playing a computer game created by 6th graders. These are simply a few of the apprenticeships and examples that I have had the opportunity to be a part of at Citizen Schools. An exhaustive list would be impossible because it would also include numerous, less noticeable, but equally important, moments. Such as seeing a father’s pride as his son received a value star award from an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow or a student frequently checking his tie because he wants to look as professional as possible before sharing what he learned in his apprenticeship with his parents and community members.

What are you looking forward to in your next 6 months at work?

I am looking forward to Edison Middle School’s next WOW! event. Students finally saw what it meant, the exposition of what they learned, and the celebration with their families at the December WOW!. Now, everyone from the school community – the schools’ staff, Citizen Schools’ staff, students, families, and I – are all looking forward to the students showcasing what they’ve learned at the end of the semester at the WOW!


“You can do it!” Meet Robert France, January’s Citizen Teacher of the Month

Citizen Teacher Bob France works with students.

Citizen Teacher Robert France (center) works with students.

“I’m interested in bringing the best possible hands-on experiences to as many students as possible.” 

Robert France has seen first-hand that students learn best by experiencing something new, while being supported by a mentors who believe in them. Robert began teaching in 2013 after learning about Citizen Schools through his role at SanDisk as VP of Customer Technical Support. He teamed up with a couple of colleagues to teach robotics at Joseph George Middle School in San Jose, CA. “Team teaching is great: it provides more viewpoints for the students, coverage when someone is out, and the ability to maximize hands-on time, as one person can run the lesson while the others can set-up the activities, said Robert.

We recognize Robert as the January Citizen Teacher of the Month for his dedication to teaching students and belief that every student has potential! “I believe that if [we] can excite students and show them that they can do something new, maybe that is the nudge that will change that student’s path for the better.”

Meet Robert…

What apprenticeships have you taught?

My first class as a Citizen Teacher was in 2013 teaching robotics. I just finished preparing and teaching a class on 3D printing with my team. Each student got to go through the whole process from creating an idea, to modeling in CAD on the computer, and ultimately printing in the classroom on a printer. The two most popular colors were silver and glow in the dark!

Do you have a favorite WOW! moment? Did anything surprise you about the students?

There are so many great mental “snapshots”, it’s hard to pick just one. But one that stands out was when we started printing the first student-designed object in the classroom. 3D printers make a very distinct sound and the motion is mesmerizing. Seeing the class’ reaction was really priceless. I think the reaction was partly because it is just such a cool thing to experience. But partly I believe, at least for some, that that was the point where they understood that they really did it, from concept to reality.

Why do you think it’s important to provide students with hands-on opportunities?

I am a huge believer in learning by doing. There is no better way to build confidence as you gain proficiency. You also find that there are usually a couple of failures along the way, and that is okay, too.

During the 3D printing WOW!, I was watching the printer working away and listening quietly to one of the students explaining the process. He was showing and describing the layers in the object, not just reading off of the presentation board. It was really great to hear his explanation. But I was especially excited about the idea that these WOW! moments would continue for our students beyond their presentations, and this idea is a driving force for me.

I knew that after the class was over, every time one of the students showed their 3D printed object to someone, I could just imagine the person saying something great to them like, “It is so cool that you did that!” Because that is what this is all about for me – to show these students that they can do it. Sure some things you have to work at, but they are not beyond reach. The ability to extend the WOW! moment for as long as possible, to have as many WOW!s as possible, continues to reinforce the message: you can do it!

What is one piece of advice you have for new Citizen Teachers?

Believe in the students. Do not underestimate them. Pick something you love and challenge yourself to challenge them. If you are teaching a complex topic, it will take some work to make it age and grade level appropriate. But it also gives you the richest opportunity to make the experience engaging and challenging for your entire range of students. You have many resources to help you with this, partner teachers, other Citizen Teachers, colleagues – ask for help!

Why should others volunteer to teach with Citizen Schools?

Education changes lives. Confidence changes lives.  Working with students is fun, rewarding, and occasionally a little tiring trying to keep up with all those brains. Citizen Schools and SanDisk have partnered together to make it easy to spend a little time, invest a little energy and in return have an awful lot of fun sharing something you love with some very energetic, really special students. The Teaching Fellows manage the classroom part (thank you!) so you can focus on your topic. And who knows, maybe one day, you’ll get a second thank you note, that you did in fact make a difference in someone’s life. I hope I do!

AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Q&A with Katie Dillard from Citizen Schools California

Katie Dillard is an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow serving at William L. Sheppard Middle School in San Jose, CA

Katie TF photoWhat brought you to Citizen Schools?

I came to Citizen Schools to earn my English Language Arts (ELA) single subject teaching credential in a supportive, hands-on setting. I was also extremely interested in working with 6th graders in apprenticeships; I remember developing my interest in art and poetry during my middle school years, and I pursued those disciplines  in college. Having invested teachers who provided one-on-one mentoring helped me pursue my dreams. When pre-teen children have reliable adults who encourage them to pick up a paintbrush, go to a poetry reading or start their own business, they are more likely to succeed. I feel grateful that I can carry on that torch and foster creativity and self-confidence in my students.

What has serving here meant to you?

Serving through Citizen Schools has helped me appreciate the value of teamwork, collaboration, and doing what you do best. I love seeing my co-workers and students work together in spite of their differences. Everyday they challenge me to be more compassionate, light-hearted, and resilient, no matter what adversity we may face as a community.

If you had asked me to step into a classroom two years ago, I would have been apprehensive and afraid.  I would have said I wasn’t capable of managing an entire classroom of middle schoolers. Since I’ve worked for Citizen Schools, I have found that I am able to do things I never thought imaginable. I can be a leader, manager, creative coach, teacher, and counselor. This organization has shown me the beauty of taking  positive risks.

What was your biggest achievement since you began serving with Citizen Schools?

My biggest achievement has teaching 6th graders math. Not only do I have a Master’s degree in English, but I never really understood math, even though I was in advanced math classes in 7-12th grade. When I received low math scores on my ACT and GRE, I realized how I needed both math and humanities to be successful in life. As a Teaching Fellow, I incorporate humanities into math curriculum. Being an academic program lead, or APL, has shown me how to develop math lessons that differentiate for various learning styles as well. By finding creative ways to teach math, whether it be showing students how to accurately measure when creating a mural or using a story to teach fractions, my students and I are more engaged. Using my skill set and having a teachable spirit have impacted my classroom dramatically.

What are you looking forward to in your next 6 months of service?

To bring in the new trimester, I am developing better classroom management techniques. First, I have started using Class Dojo, an online program that creates individual avatars for each student so you can award or deduct points for desired behaviors. It also runs individual reports that I can send home to families. Since I started using it last week, I have found it has improved student investment immensely.

Additionally, I keep a homework tracker at the front of the room and students receive a sticker for each day they complete their homework. If students can maintain an 85 percent homework completion rate, they will earn a pizza party at the end of the year. By showing students their work and cooperation leads to positive relationships and good grades, they will succeed.

Join Katie as an AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellow! Apply Here!