Cisco Citizen Teachers of the Year

Leading network technology company Cisco and the nonprofit organization Citizen Schools have partnered for four years to help middle school students across the country discover a love for science and technology. Over 125 volunteers from Cisco have stepped out of their jobs as engineers, sales executives, and technology professionals to become mentors and “Citizen Teachers” (CTs), leading groups of students in 10-week “apprenticeship” classes. Thanks to their commitment to the program, over 700 students have had access to caring mentors and developed an interest in pursuing future careers in STEM fields. This year Citizen Schools is recognizing three Cisco volunteers as the Cisco Citizen Teachers of the Year.


Cisco CT of the Year: Kimone Gooden

Kimone Gooden is a Business Development Manager in Cisco’s Demo Loan Program. She has been a CT for 2 years: first in Oakland teaching a blogging apprenticeship, and this year in Silicon Valley, where she coordinated a Cisco Connected Women group – including Denise Lombard – to teach Women in Technology.

Tell us something about your apprenticeship?

We had an all girls apprenticeship taught by women from Cisco’s Connected Women San Jose employee resource group. Our class Women in Technology was focused on exposing middle school girls to the wide range of career options available in STEM fields, an area where women are still the minority.


What surprised you most about the volunteer experience? 

The Citizen Schools apprenticeships gave the girls a lot of amazing exposure to different things. I was very happy to discover how much the girls loved the topics. We went from marketing to project management to IT. By the end of the apprenticeship they had exposure to instructional knowledge on ten different careers in technology. We also went on a field trip to Cisco where we gave a live demonstration of our Telepresence technology. We put them in different rooms and simulated how efficiently we could connect to each other virtually via video. It was a great way to show in real time the power of technology we discussed in class. I was surprised to hear by the end of the class several girls expressing an ambition to work for Cisco. It seems our class has become a very early staffing and recruitment channel.

What did you learn about yourself and about the students?

I learned that I missed my students when I did not have class, which was a surprise. I did not anticipate how much I would enjoy spending time with them. The kids, they have so much energy and excitement for what we teach, being around them is like a breath of fresh air.

Why is it important to you and your company to teach apprenticeships?

It has been extraordinarily important. By virtue of doing this group class, I met and networked with a variety of women so my personal network has grown. I am now able to reach out to any of my fellow CTs in other groups for their support or feedback on a project. Networks are so important and the networking I did with all the other Citizen Teachers has been very valuable.

Are you still in touch with the other Citizen Teachers you had networked earlier with?

We are connected on LinkedIn and are now actively working on creating a community of Citizen Teachers at Cisco. We are going to plan lunches and activities to maintain the engagement.

What was your WOW! moment from the semester?

The great thing about the structure of the class is that each apprenticeship is paired with a Citizen Schools staff member who is responsible for behavior management, among other things. There was one girl who was a bit disruptive. During our branding session we really saw her come alive, we saw a whole different level of engagement from her. I saw firsthand the power of curriculum students can relate to, it really can change their entire experience and investment in the class. 9156683186_0781269e14_z

What does this recognition for your service mean to you?

I’ve already committed to teach next year, this is just a nice acknowledgement and reinforces my commitment.

What is the future that you see for the students who are part of the Citizen Schools initiative?

The apprenticeships are varied and interesting from dance classes to building video games to yoga, it exposes the students to a whole range of possibilities very different from their normal school day. Hopefully something they learn will excite them and build their passion for learning. I met another Citizen Teacher during orientation whose daughter participated in Citizen Schools years ago and now wins junior science competitions based on an interest she developed in her very first apprenticeship. This is an amazing program and the students involved will undoubtedly continue to do amazing things.


Cisco CT of the Year: Doug Reagan

Doug Reagan is a Strategic Account Manager at Cisco, handling sales for higher education accounts in northern New Jersey and New York. He is also a four-time Citizen Teacher with Citizen Schools New Jersey.

How did you hear about Citizen Schools?

I was initially exposed to the program through the Newark Board of Education and then learned from the Cisco Foundation that we were partners in Boston, North Carolina and California and I was excited to bring the conversation to New Jersey. I was born in Newark and I liked the local focus. It felt like coming home to give back to the community I am from.

What apprenticeship topic did you teach?

The apprenticeship focused on video documentaries and provided firsthand experience on how technology impacts students in the classroom. A lot of what we do at Cisco in terms of technology is finding ways to change a company’s business paradigm.  I wanted to do the same from a teaching perspective to show the students how technology can affect their education. I have now taught four apprenticeships in total.

What did you learn about yourself and about the students?  

I think what I’ve learned is that children within these communities have a lot in common with kids in other communities. I have an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old and they have a lot of similarities to the kids I taught-- the same challenges and the same wants that come with being an adolescent. At first, some kids are indifferent, but once you start working with them pretty closely, there starts to be a common bond. It takes a little bit of time to establish those connections, but they tend to be quite powerful. You need to make an effort to build a bridge.

Why is it important to you and Cisco to teach apprenticeships

I think that exposing typically underserved students to more and more of the world outside of their communities is a critical element in showing them how important their education is. The more you can expose them to people and resources outside the four walls of their school, the better chance you have to show them that success is within their reach with the right path, like education and hard work.

What was your WOW! moment from the semester?

We took the students to Cisco and used Cisco’s Telepresence system to connect them with the NFL Hall of Fame in Ohio as part of a lesson to show them what careers they can have in sports outside of just playing them. They were mesmerized at how they were connected across many miles to the speaker. It was like a window into another world for them. The fact that technology itself helped them focus and have a “light bulb” moment was a great experience for me and for them.


What does this recognition for your service mean to you? 

I am humbled by this honor, but realize any success I’ve had isn’t based on my efforts alone. For example, the support and encouragement I get from Cisco to give back to the community is key. But more important, I very much appreciate the opportunities that Citizen Schools has provided me to volunteer in Newark Schools. From the highly organized approach they take to Expanded Learning Time, to the great in-class support I’ve received from all of the staff, it’s been a great experience and extremely rewarding to see how every child benefits from the program.  Looking forward to the next apprenticeship!

Cisco CT of the Year: Denise Lombard

Denise Lombard is a Director in Global Procurement Services at Cisco and a co-CT with Kimone Gooden. Both are part of the San Jose Connected Women Outreach Program which is focused on reaching out to junior high and high school girls to increase their awareness and excitement regarding careers in technology.

What surprised you most about the volunteer experience?  

The biggest surprise about this volunteer experience was how organized the program was and the amazing support Citizen Schools and their staff provided. The infrastructure of the program made it extremely easy to partner with them, and to meet and exceed our goals within the Cisco Connected Women Outreach Program.


What did you learn about yourself and about the students?  

I inherently know this about myself, but every time I am engaged with these young women I truly feel more energized and motivated to make a difference in both my personal and professional lives. It’s wonderful that I am able to merge my professional and personal goals together with the Citizen Schools and Cisco partnership. The students never cease to amaze me, there are so many bright young women that are inquisitive and eager to learn more about the world and what’s in store for them and I’m so glad I can be a part of that quest!

What advice do you have for future volunteers?

Really connect with these students by making the sessions interactive. Also, students seemed to really enjoy hearing some of our personal stories about our development throughout our careers and some of the mistakes we made along the way. Finally, don’t forget that volunteers can learn a lot from students, too!

Why is it important to you and your company to teach apprenticeships?

Looking purely from the business side, I would say we are contributing to building a pipeline of future employees for Cisco by engaging with them now and letting them know about all the exciting opportunities Cisco and other technology companies can offer. From a personal perspective, this quote by Winston Churchill really resonates with me. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Sharing my knowledge and my time to guide and influence these young students to go after what they are passionate about and share with them all the incredible opportunities technology has to offer is truly a gift to me.

What does this recognition for your service mean to you?

This recognition is so unexpected and wonderful; [I can’t believe] that I am actually receiving recognition for something that I consider a privilege and gift to give. Thank you for all your support and I’m looking forward to next semester and our continued partnership.