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Member Spotlight Janis Kyser

What is the Civic Learning and Engagement Community and why change from Citizenship?

The purpose of the Civic Learning and Engagement Community is to investigate, consider, and propose ways of defining, promoting, and enhancing effective citizenship within NCSS, the profession, school settings, and society.

Civic learning preserves and instills the core concepts, ideals, and values of our system of government; teaches students the skills of reflection, deliberation, and action on which our republic thrives; and prepares students to accept the responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy. In short, civic learning provides the knowledge and skills to ensure this preparation for life. Civic engagement is “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, and dispositions to make that difference.”

Our Community petitioned for a name change from Citizenship Community to Civic Learning and Engagement Community as it encompasses what we strive to accomplish. Persons were joining and attending our Community meetings thinking we were discussing the naturalization process, how to become a citizen, or comparative democracy. 

The Civic Learning and Engagement Community believes:

“The necessary elements of effective civic education include classroom instruction in civics & government, history, economics, law and geography; service learning linked to classroom learning; experiential learning; learning through participation in models and simulations of democratic processes; guided classroom discussion of current issues and events, and meaningful participation in school governance.”

These practices were determined as effective by the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, followed by the Guardian of Democracy, which included the “Six Proven Practices for Effective Civic Learning.”

Why should NCSS members join our community?

Improved civic learning can address many of our democratic shortfalls. It increases the democratic accountability of elected officials, since only informed and engaged citizens will ask those tough questions of their leaders. Civic learning paired with civic engagement improves public discourse and our ideal of civic equality by giving every citizen, regardless of background, the tools to be a full participant

The Civic Learning and Engagement Community invites you to join us as we explore current topics surrounding civic education by keeping up-to-date on news, information, and research, joining discussions, and working collaboratively with experts across the country to inform policies at the national, state and local levels. Investing  in civic learning strengthens American democracy.

Personal Milestones in Social Studies leadership.

I currently serve as the Director for the Tennessee Center for Civic Learning and Engagement providing professional development and quality resources for educators. One of my greatest accomplishments in Civic Learning is working with Senator Mark Norris to pass a bill requiring students in grades 4–8, and again in high school, to be assessed in “project based/ action civics.”  This bill requires that Tennessee youth be given the opportunity to take civic action within their communities and then be assessed on this opportunity.

I serve as The Tennessee liaison for the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, coordinate the Center for Civic Education’s Programs, serve on the Tennessee Council for Social Studies Board of Directors as the Advocacy chair, chair NCSS’s Civic Learning and Engagement Community and serve on the Government and Public Relations Committee.  I have has the opportunity to work with educators across Tennessee, the United States, China, South Africa, and Indonesia. I have had the opportunity to attend and present at NCSS’s Leadership Institutes, worked with state leaders on presenting the NCSS Strategic plan within their states.

Why is SS leadership important?

Social Studies  provides a remarkable opportunity to engage students in the enduring dilemmas embedded in the study of community, family, and society. Examining these dilemmas makes Social Studies come alive for students and allows them to explore the role of responsible citizen. Through this learning, students model responsible citizenship and are more committed to enhancing the social fabric in which they live. Social Studies provides a unique forum for acquiring historical perspective, practicing respectful processes of engagement, and developing a passion for contributing to the common good of the immediate and larger community. To ensure Social Studies is given the same priority as Math and Science, there must be an informed Leadership with the ability to provide resources necessary to keep Social Studies in the forefront. NCSS provides this leadership for the Social Studies community.

Why I enjoy being a member of NCSS?

Social Studies helps students become responsible citizens in a culturally diverse, democratic society within an interdependent world. Through the exploration of history, geography, economics, and civics, students learn about the people, places, issues, eras, and events that shape our world.

As I work diligently to provide Tennessee’s educators with high quality professional development and resources, I find myself turning to the National Council of Social Studies  for leadership,  especially in research and advocacy support.  NCSS provides the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with like-minded educators, participate in high quality professional development, and provides the opportunity to develop leadership skills transferable to each state.