“We learn the most when we stop to listen to students, and put their needs at the forefront.”
Jeanne Russell is a passionate advocate for student voice: “We learn the most when we stop to listen to students, and put their needs at the forefront.” She began her career as a classroom teacher and spent a decade as a reporter and editor examining education before joining two San Antonio Mayors to lead their education policy agenda. She grew up in the Silicon Valley, and her eyes were opened to how public schools differently prepared young people when she attended college at UC-Berkeley and worked at “Break The Cycle,” a nonprofit education organization based in Oakland, CA. She taught middle and high school in East Harlem, Tokyo and Guatemala, where through listening to students she learned to share power and ownership of learning. She led the conception and design of many signature San Antonio education initiatives, including Café College, PreK4SA, Upgrade and SA Works. She is the founding executive director of CAST Schools, a nonprofit school network dedicated to economic mobility and nurturing San Antonio’s homegrown talent. Co-created as a regional partnership between independent school districts, higher education institutions, and local employers, CAST offers a new model of teaching and learning alongside industry professionals committed to connecting students with high-demand, high-growth, high wage jobs. Previously, she led the San Antonio Youth Commission to present the first youth-informed public policy agenda to City Council, and introduced the regional civics fair Speak Up Speak Out to San Antonio. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California-Berkeley, a master’s degree in education from the University of California-Davis and a joint master’s degree in journalism and Caribbean and Latin American Studies from New York University. Her daughter is a CAST Alumni and her son is a senior at the Advanced Learning Academy, CAST’s pre-k-12 academy. “We believe that all students have gifts; our job is to unlock them,” she said.