TF Classes of ’01, ’02, ’03 updates and other alumni news…

Meet Ava! See any resemblance to anyone you might know? Find out which alumnus this little one belongs to, who is teaching in Amsterdam, who is connecting with student alumni in unexpected ways, and who took a globetrotting sabbatical to Ecuador and Peru. Read on for exciting updates from Liz Najjar, Sarah Holden Chokshi, Anna DiPerna, Susie Robidoux, Chris de Beer, Ragan Hudson, Jessica Neel, Carrie Baldwin, Alissa Farber, and more.

Liz Najjar (TF ’01): “For the last few years I have been the Director of Guidance and Counseling at a charter school in Cambridge. It serves primarily students from Boston and Cambridge in grades 7 – 12. It always makes me smile when I realize that some of my current students have participated in Citizen Schools programming! Last year, one of Citizen Schools’ first students, Evelis, completed an internship with me during her senior year of college. Small world!”

Sarah Holden Chokshi (TF ’01): “After my year as a TF I became the Campus Director for the (at the time) brand new McCormack program. I led that program for 3 years and then became a Program Manager for about 2 years. When I left CS, I took about 5 months off and traveled in Ecuador and Peru, studying Spanish, hiking Machu Picchu, kayaking Lake Titikaka, and generally gallivanting about with freedom to spare. Afterwards, I went to UMass Amherst and got my CAGS in School Counseling and now I work as the Guidance Director for a small therapeutic high school in Watertown, MA. Oh yes, and I got married 2 years ago to a wonderful man (whom I met at CS) and we have an unbelievably delightful 4-month-old daughter named Serenna Indira. I am just ending my maternity leave this week and heading back to work part time.”

Anna DiPerna (TF ’02): “I’m happily living in Beverly, MA, and teaching middle school math and reading at the Landmark School, a school for kids with language-based learning disabilities. I most definitely miss my vibrant and passionate co-workers from Citizen Schools, and appreciate all that I was able to learn from them, from CS trainings, and from my CS students. I’ve used call and response, shout outs, stars, and tons of team time games to help build community at Landmark, and try to model my teaching and training using the CS hands-on approach. As for community, I’ve worked very hard to grow the Landmark community spirit, directing multiple plays, heading a Community Day where students, teachers, and parents share their talents with each other (imagine a bunch of workshops that are like mini-apprenticeships), and heading the Community Action Team (a community service component of the school). I’m also on the Board of Kestrel Educational Adventures, an environmental education non-profit that partners with local schools to make science curriculum hands-on – we provide expert naturalists who bring students out into nature to explore the wildlands and learn about their science topics in a real way. I also volunteer with Beverly Bootstraps Community Services, an amazing non-profit that basically aids people in need in every way imaginable. Life is busy, but fun!”

Susie Robidoux (TF ’02): “After leaving CS, I moved to Asheville, NC and found myself teaching in a kindergarten classroom! A wonderful experience, but after only one year I transitioned back to 5th grade. I went back to school and got my Masters in Special Education and spent several more years floating between being a classroom teacher and an inclusion teacher. Last year our school qualified for Title One funding so I was hired to develop and run the school-wide reading program. Family and community involvement was a major component of this program and I often thought back to my time at CS and how each campus found ways to empower and mobilize their communities. Throughout my time in NC, I drew upon the professional and personal skills that were embedded in me at CS. The culture of CLAS has been a foundation in all of my roles as an educator. Most recently, I have moved to Amsterdam and work as a Learning Support Specialist at the International School of Amsterdam. Although it is a world away from Boston, MA., we actually have a connection to Harvard University with a Visible Thinking Project that permeates many classrooms. However, one question still remains…with over 50 languages represented in our school, I wonder if I call…what will I hear in response?!”

Chris de Beer (TF ’02): “Since my last update, not too much has changed: I still live in Black Mountain, NC, in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, still not in touch with too many CS folks, aside from electronically. Since getting my Masters of Social Work degree in May, I worked for a summer as a therapist for adolescents in a wilderness therapy program called SUWS of the Carolinas. It was engaging, but time limited, and I am very excited to have started my (hopefully very long-term) job as the social worker in an in-patient psychiatric unit at the local VA hospital. I’m a little sad to not be working directly with kids for the first time in over a decade, but other than that, life is good. Outside of work, my own family takes up my time – I can’t believe I already have a daughter who can read!”

Ragan Hudson (TF ’03): “I’m currently living just outside of Washington, D.C. in Silver Spring, MD, working for Montgomery County Public Schools as a School Counselor. I keep in touch with Nick Thompson, Fernando Santos, Carrie Baldwin, Kayron Wright, Amy Parsons and many others. My time with CS remains one of the most formative experiences in my adult life. The sense of community fostered there and the opportunities created for young people were/are profound and certainly touch the work I continue to do today with the under-served population with whom I work. Today, I remain focused on many of the same issues of access, equity, and social justice that were an integral part of the work I did at CS so many years ago. I continue to advocate for students and families to help eliminate our nation’s achievement gap and serve all students in a way that helps them achieve to their highest potential.”

Jessica Neel (TF ’03): “I’m currently living in Allston, MA and work as an art teacher for 5th-8th graders at Wilson Middle School in Natick, MA. I keep up with Angela Hurst regularly and several other Boston folks at CS events and on Facebook. In reflecting on my experience at Citizen Schools, as an artist and museum interpreter, I always knew I loved hands-on learning. My experience at Citizen Schools gave me longer opportunities to work with young people and, in the process, build relationships and discovers together the joy and pride that come with learning. It was at Citizen Schools that I realizedI wanted to work with middle schoolers and go into project-based work: art education seemed like a natural result. As a teacher, I hope my students learn to see beauty in the world, to improve their ability to render what they see as well as what they imagine, and to respect diverse points of view.”

Carrie Baldwin (TF ’03): “I live in Jamaica Plain, MA and work as a 9th grade biology teacher and athletic coach at Boston Preparatory Charter Public School (now a 6th-12th grade school) in Hyde Park. At the school, I work with Nick Thompson, Kayron Wright, and Fernando Santos. I am also friends with Amy Parsons, Angel dos Santos, and Kim Hildebrand. My time at Citizen Schools inspired me to work somewhere that was just starting their high school. I wanted to be part of that exciting process, and I wanted to help the school develop into a strong community. I also knew that I had to work somewhere where my coworkers were positive, motivated, and passionate about what they do. I hope that I am helping my students from Hyde Park, Dorchester, Mattapan, and elsewhere to become even more educated and ethical people who will graduate from college and give back in some way themselves.”

Alissa Farber (TF ’03): Well, you may have guessed already, cute-as-a-button Ava belongs to Alissa Farber and husband, Dan Restuccia! “I’m living in Jamaica Plain with my husband Dan Restuccia (TF 2004) and 20-month old daughter Ava. I’m still working at Citizen Schools (!!), helping support our staff in planning and implementing Expanded Learning Time schools across the country. From Citizen Schools, I keep in touch with my husband, many others on Facebook, and the many CS staff and alumni who live in Jamaica Plain. It’s really exciting to see how this organization has evolved over the years and still retains a fierce focus on supporting young people and engaging citizens. The ELT model has so much potential to help transform whole schools, so it’s a project that I feel very connected to.”

In other news…

The Second Shift Blog

Every day there’s a new story at Citizen Schools, and we’re sharing them with the world on a new blog: the Second Shift. National Director of Campus Director Recruitment, Lee Hart along with Teaching Fellow alum and Campus Director at Henderson Middle School in North Carolina, Angelo Cross and a few other campus staff are cruising on the blog bus over the achievement gap,  blogging about hijinks and hard knocks to teaching outside the box, from bridge building to leadership learning, from the culture of achievement to ed reform, our style—the Second Shift tells it like it is. Check it out!

Will Gardner makes headway to open a new charter school

Former MA Campus Director, Will Gardner is currently leading the effort to open Alma del Mar, a K-8 Expeditionary Learning charter school for New Bedford, MA. Will’s vision is to create a school that challenges kids to be service-oriented leaders while putting them on a college trajectory. The work for this proposal began when he was a Campus Director at Keith Middle School. At Citizen Schools, Will got to see kids thrive in a tight-knit family environment as they do rigorous and meaningful work. The question he kept coming back to was “why can’t school be more like this?” Will spent the last year completing Harvard’s School Leadership Program and building his local team for the proposal. They have a solid application with a strong proposed board of trustees. Out of 60 groups that submitted letters of intent to open charters statewide, they are one of 25 proposals in the final round of what has been a grueling, but exhilarating process. If granted a charter in February, Will and his team hope to open in September 2011 with three grades. Will writes, “Being a Campus Director really me to do the kind of outreach and entrepreneurial work I have to do to pursue this vision. I’ve got support from CS parents, staff and former CTs and a great network of local leaders who are invested in youth development in this city.”

A message from Stephanie Davalos, Executive Director, North Central Charter Essential

“MCAS scores were released publically yesterday and I am thrilled with the news that North Central Charter Essential students significantly outperformed their peers from sending districts in the ELA, Math, Biology and Technology MCAS tests in grades 8, 9 and 10.  In addition, NCCES is listed as the seventh high school in Massachusetts with the biggest combined increase in the percent of students scoring Proficient and Advanced in mathematics and ELA.  I am so excited by this news as it proves what we have known all along- that each and every one of our students is brilliant and capable of personal greatness and that every NCCES staff member is remarkable.”

Congrats to Stephanie and team!

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