Lisa Ulrich brings big ideas to the classroom

Lisa Ulrich (far right) and family

As a founding member of City Year, Lisa was introduced to Eric Schwarz and later, to his brainchild Citizen Schools where she first volunteered as a Citizen Teacher. Inspired by the model of citizen engagement and experiential learning that Citizen Schools offered, Lisa joined the team in 2001 as the Director of the National Teaching Fellowship and later served as the Chief Learning Officer. In both roles, she worked toward her personal mission, “creating leaders for the common good.” After eight years with Citizen Schools, Lisa took her passion for building leaders to Peace First, an organization that imagines children as future peace makers. In all positions, Lisa demonstrated her enthusiasm for turning abstract ideals into a set of realistic plans for teachers and staff and children.

As the Director of the National Teaching Fellowship, Lisa was responsible for identifying the mission of the fellowship, and then hiring, training and supporting a growing cohort of Fellows nationally. She became excited about building a team of Fellows, first as a staffing solution and then as “an opportunity to create new leaders in the educational field.” In addition, Lisa led the launch of the Master’s program and secured Citizen Schools’ connection with Lesley University. Lisa moved into the new role of Chief Learning Officer in 2005, eager to influence our apprentices directly. Again, Lisa demonstrated her passion for bringing big ideas to the classroom as she worked to implement the programming model in our growing regions and support Citizen Schools’ efforts to promote academic achievement and bridge to high school, college and beyond. Her time at Citizen Schools was highlighted by the “smart, idealistic people” she met and worked with and the chance she had to “take on new challenges” as she constantly asked, “How do I use our model to promote student learning and build a pathway to a successful future?”

Lisa’s eight years with Citizen Schools reinforced her beliefs that experiential learning can be really powerful when coupled with academic support. “The model makes sense,” she says. Her experience analyzing data, pushing for organizational change, and learning the “belief system behind successful teaching” proved valuable as she transitioned into a new role as Vice President of Programs at Peace First (formerly Peace Games), an organization that recognizes children as future community peace makers. Peace First designs and implements curricula for children in kindergarten through the eighth grade, introducing key concepts such as communication, collaboration, civic engagement, and conflict resolution. Students learn how to recognize needs or opportunities in their communities, assess possible solutions, and execute a plan for resolution. For example, students in a third grade class in New York City, appalled by the amount of waste in their school cafeteria, presented a set of alternative solutions and the result of limiting disposable products in the lunchroom. The presentation to school administrators led to a school lunch policy change.

As the Vice President at Peace First, Lisa collaborated with the national leadership to promote national expansion in Los Angeles, Boston, and New York City, and worked to strengthen impact in the classroom, in part by securing AmeriCorps funding to bring in strong, full time teaching staff. In addition, she helped design and pilot a new aspect of the model aimed at promoting a peaceful school climate. She claims that her experience training staff and teachers as well as “running challenging organization change” at Citizen Schools helped her in this new position. According to Lisa, Citizen Schools is “an extraordinary model” for classroom leadership training. Lisa recently left Peace First, a decision based on the changing strategy of the organization to focus on web-based support as a sustainable means to meet growing demand for their work. Lisa’s departure from Peace First was a result of the new service model falling “too far from my passion or core talents” but she is extremely excited about this innovative approach to scaling – and its potential for incorporating peacemaking practices into thousands of schools nationally  She is looking forward to assuming a new position that will capitalize on her talents for transforming innovative ideas for social change into reality.

Lisa’s primary passion has always been “creating new leaders for our country” – whether they’re AmeriCorps members involved in education reform, the staff who lead them, or the children who benefit from organizations like City Year, Citizen Schools, and Peace First. As these young leaders mature and bring their transformative experiences with them, she hopes that they will continue changing the rules, lives and opportunities of the next generations of students everywhere.

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