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

Katie TF photo
Katie TF photo

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