Keeping Children in School is a Family Affair

CIS of Philadelphia Jennifer Pitt Shares National Spotlight With Her Mom

By Jennifer Pitt

jenn and mom cropped 200x300I think we all go through a phase at some point in our youth where the prospect of becoming just like our parents seems totally mortifying. In the wisdom I’ve gained as an adult, it has become perfectly clear that it can actually be a tremendous gift to share qualities of our parents. I have worked for Communities In Schools in Philadelphia (CIS of Philadelphia) for over 12 years and I can trace my footsteps in my career path back to my mom’s classroom in 1985 at Pinecrest Elementary in Immokalee, Florida. That’s when I knew I would pursue a future in a helping profession.

My mom, Kathy Pitt, was recently featured on The Today Show working in her classroom at Seagate Elementary in Naples, Florida. She currently teaches a boy named Chase in her 5th grade class and Chase’s mom, Glennon Doyle Melton, is author of the New York Times bestseller Carry On, Warrior, and leader of an online community through her blog Momastery.

One day, Glennon visited the classroom for a meeting about math instruction and learned about a strategy my mom uses in her classroom to promote inclusivity and kindness. The author went home and posted a blog about how she felt about what she heard. My mom’s strategy involves simple tools; index cards and pencils which provides her with an opportunity to look under the surface at some of the internal dynamics of the classroom. The blog post was simply named “Share This With All the Schools, Please.” Well, her community of readers, some of whom she refers to as “Mama Warriors” and “Love Ninjas,” got right to work and they did just that, so much so…the post rapidly went viral with more than 4 million readers in less than one week.

When my mom was invited to be interviewed live on The Today Show with Glennon Doyle Melton, she didn’t share the information. During one of our weekly phone calls, mom casually mentioned that NBC TV National Correspondent, Janet Shamblian, and a camera crew were going to visit her classroom to film her implementing the index card system. Even though she had turned down the opportunity for a live interview in New York, they still wanted to share her story. She seemed hesitant to be in the spotlight so I waited to share the news until filming was complete. I couldn’t wait to share the news with my Communities In Schools family. Here, we are working every day to build communities in the schools we serve throughout the southeastern Pennsylvania area, and she is being featured for creating a community in her classroom!

This year is my mom’s last year of teaching after more than 30 years in the field. This national acknowledgement is a wonderful tribute of her work. As her teaching career comes to a close, I am forced to think back to how her career started my journey working with youth. If I hadn’t had so many opportunities to help in her classroom over the years and particularly having spent time at Pinecrest Elementary, I may not have found my calling as easily.

Pinecrest was located in a community of migrant workers in Immokalee, Florida. I was drawn back to Pinecrest Elementary to create a mentoring/volunteer program with my InterAct Club as a senior in high school; even after my mom had since moved on to a different school in Naples. I went on to study social work at Florida State and minored in Spanish. I not only interned with Healthy Start working with pregnant youth in a community of migrant workers outside of Tallahassee, but my first job after graduation was in that same migrant community as a bi-lingual social worker. Many of the clients I met with had spent time working in the agricultural seasons in Immokalee at some point in their travels.

I came to Philadelphia in 2001 and found a job listing for a bi-lingual social worker who was needed for working in a school setting with teen parents. I knew it was perfect for me, as the foundation had been laid by my mother and my education. After 12 years, I am still here working with Communities In Schools of Philadelphia as an Assistant Director with the ELECT (Education Leading to Employment and Career Training Center) program, serving teen parents in the Philadelphia area.

I will continue on my career path with the characteristics I’ve gained from my mother: developing innovative policies and strategies; creating community; watching for the youth who might get overlooked and helping to coach our Case Management Team in identifying youth who might need a little empowerment to succeed in their community. I will proudly tell anyone who should ask that I am thrilled that I turned out to be like my mother!

Posted on in CISPA News