Cissy Smile CC

I have spent most of my professional life at San Francisco State University as a mathematics education professor, where I taught classes in mathematics curriculum, problem solving in mathematics and seminar in education for both pre-service teachers and graduate students.  I was Co-Director of SF Math Leadership Project for seven years. Before SFSU, I taught at Felician College in Lodi, NJ, and spent 15 years teaching in public and parochial schools.

 Encouraged by California State University’s challenge to take leadership in the California Schools, I developed my vision for education in urban schools.  I did this by founding the Clinical Schools Project and the MATE Program.  In these programs, students became change agents in urban schools as apprentices, and schoolteachers became teacher educators by welcoming students into their classrooms to learn the craft of teaching.  I am most proud of this work, especially the MATE (Muir Alternative Teacher Education) Program where I was co-principal of John Muir School in San Francisco and where students used the school as a laboratory to learn to teach. For developing this program I received the highest honor in teacher education, CTC’s Quality of Education Award for Service to Teachers and Children. These were important days in teacher education, where professors, teachers, and teaching interns worked together with children of many cultures, languages and ethnicities, to understand their ways of learning so that we could become better educators.  Annenberg, Ford, AT&T, Chevron, Haas, and San Francisco Foundation funded this work, George Lucas celebrated it in his books and articles about education, and the local and national press cited this merger of the urban school and the university as the single most promise for educational renewal in the US.  I am grateful to them and to my professional partner in all these endeavors, Virginia Watkins.

I have retired from San Francisco State University, but my students continue to inspire me as they write to me about their work with children in the classroom.  My project of seven years, researching my father’s ancestry, is till a major focus for me, and I am working to publish his story. I am also looking for opportunities to make a difference for children in schools and other social venues around the world. Recently I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Kazakhstan in mathematics problem solving, which I will undertake in 2015.  I continue to conduct women’s empowerment workshops, “That Takes Ovaries!”  in universities all over the United States.  But the major focus of my daily life is my work as an artist.  I am taking painting classes at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, and I have developed a large body of paintings that express the joy and beauty of the world—the natural world, the mathematics world, and the hidden world.  This is the work that now sustains me.

I look forward to growing old (in new ways) with my partner of 17 years, Bobbi Ausubel.  The major influences in my life have been my family, where I was second oldest of fourteen children; my father, who was a dynamic leader in his community, and who taught me the healing power of singing; my role as parent to one son, Nathaniel, who continues to inspire me as he seeks his way in the world; my Catholic education, which taught me that my talents and gifts were to be used for the benefit of a better world for all persons.  I am grateful for my bi-cultural heritage (maternal–Sicilian and paternal—Bohemian (Czech) Jewish), because I am able to view the world through these expressive lenses, and it is at once, very beautiful and in need of new dreams and visions as well.   I hope to be part of this in my next sixty years.