In April of this year, Cheryl Cook-Kallio assumed the mantle of state coordinator for the We the People Programs, including both We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution and We the People: Project Citizen.
“My entire adult life has been about civic engagement,” says Cook-Kallio. She began teaching Project Citizen and We the People at the middle school level in the early nineties before she became a James Madison Fellow, which allowed her to increase her constitutional content knowledge and work with Senator Dianne Feinstein and the federal courts. She eventually moved to teaching at the high school level, specifically to teach a We the People competition class.
“All these things led my former and current students to encourage me to run for public office in 2006. I retired from teaching in 2015 after 39 years. I will never retire from encouraging excellent civic education.”
State and congressional district coordinators are responsible for ensuring that students and teachers throughout the United States have access to sets of We the People textbooks, providing exemplary professional development, and helping classes conduct simulated congressional hearings. Cook-Kallio has both the hands-on experience and enthusiasm for civic education to excel as the California State Coordinator.
“[We the People and Project Citizen] encourage students to learn for the sake of learning. That is a teacher’s dream,” says Cook-Kallio. She sees the programs as a platform for civil discussion that places value on diversity of opinion based on fact, and these principles are essential in the encouragement of participatory democracy. It makes sense, then, that her favorite Founder is James Madison, who “was a pragmatist. If one suggestion didn’t work, he had another. He had a brilliant political mind and little ego. He was someone who learned for the sake of learning.”