Educator Spotlight: Meet Leticia Citizen
For tech coach in Southern California, family comes first
This story is part of a weekly series that celebrates outstanding teachers in our Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.
When Leticia Citizen was growing up, her mother would sit patiently with her at the table as she finished her homework for the night.
Her younger siblings would crowd about, the evening home abuzz with little voices, dishes being put away and excitement for the next day to come.
Even into middle school, when her mom could no longer help, she would stay at the table still and assure Leticia, “We can talk about it and work through it together. I’m still here.”
Leticia grew up with a big family who was very close – many cousins together often, a grandmother who baked cakes from scratch for every birthday party and singing contests at the end of holiday gatherings. But amid the bustle and joy were Leticia’s inspiring parents, a young mother who helped to raise her nieces and nephews and a young father who finished college while Leticia was a teenager.
“They were firm but fair,” says Leticia, a tech coach in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Yes, we could make mistakes, but we couldn’t make excuses and we had to keep going, knowing we could still come out of those ashes. My parents held us to a high standard, but they did it in such a nurturing way.
“We felt loved, and everything I’ve done and how I do it is because I learned from them. They definitely were – and still are – my first teachers in life.”
Encouraging Parent Participation in the Home
After 20 years in education, Leticia still leans into her own childhood experiences today. She first started teaching elementary in Pasadena, where second-language learners would separate school and home.
“I had a lot of parents who thought they could not help their kid because they didn’t speak the language, or I had students who felt like they couldn’t speak their native language at school because they were trying to learn English,” Leticia says. “But I was always trying to help both the students and the parents understand that this is your first language, and it’s a beautiful thing that comes from your families! You need to continue to hold onto that and honor that while still learning something new.”
Just like her own family did, Leticia knows that parents are not only encouraged to participate in their child’s learning, but that the learning begins there, every day at the dinner table, in the home.
“There tends to be this language barrier that doesn’t need to exist,” Leticia says. “I am always very transparent with my students and with their parents that they can still do this. I don’t allow them to go those spaces of thinking they can’t get through something, because I wasn’t allowed to go to those spaces growing up!
“I knew my biggest impact was that I could connect with my kids – not only because I looked like them but because I knew what they had been through, and I could hold them accountable.”
Leticia is incredibly warm and nurturing. She speaks about teaching with a twinkle in her eye, and she cares about her students with the same “firm and fair” balance she had when she was young. She raises her four older children in the same way, too. Her work is very personal to her every single day, and it’s because her family – all the cousins she used to “play school” with and all the siblings who tell her she’s “just like Mom and Dad” – gave her the space to love and to live with a big, open heart.
Today, Leticia works with teachers, going into classrooms and helping to integrate new tools into lessons. Even though her relationships are different with families in the schools, her message is still the same.
“I am always telling my teachers to connect with their students,” Leticia says. “Demand of them to not only accel academically but personally, too. Just like I learned, allow them to make mistakes, then be there to encourage them and pick them up.
“And then, take it one step further and connect with their families. They play such a huge role.”