Civic education is fundamental in the preparation of informed, active citizens who guide our country forward.

Though its value is clear, civic education requirements and curriculums still vary widely by state. Passionate about the power of educating youth on their duties and capabilities, triple Gators Emma Humphries (B.A. ‘04, M.Ed. ‘05, Ph.D. ‘12) and Stephen Masyada (B.A. ‘00, M.Ed. ‘02, Ph.D. ‘13) have dedicated their careers to advancing the quality and reach of civic education to equip all students for civic life.

Humphries is the Chief Education Officer of iCivics, the nation’s leading provider of civic education materials. In this role, she leads the creation of high-quality resources that equip educators with the tools they need to successfully teach civics. Serving for more than three years, Humphries leads the curriculum team in the design and development of digital games, comprehensive lesson plans and robust classroom resources to promote civic learning.

With a free online library of more than 20 online civics and government games and more than 220 classroom resources designed to support middle and high school-aged students, iCivics has reached nearly 200,000 teachers and more than 6 million students across the country.

“We provide strong, effective, highly engaging instructional materials, and we provide them for free,” Humphries said.

Director of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship and interim executive director of the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida, Masyada is driven to prepare civic educators to advance civic learning for all students. Serving as director for more than five years and interim executive director since August, he leads efforts to shape, strengthen and expand the reach of the Center and Institute to accomplish their missions.

Established as a partnership between the Lou Frey Institute and the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship connects with Florida educators, district coordinators and other key state partners to design, develop and distribute K-12 civics curriculum resources that enhance students’ civic knowledge, skills and dispositions.

Emma Humphries

Emma Humphries

Stephen Masyada

Stephen Masyada

In addition to providing free, downloadable resources and dynamic professional development opportunities to support effective civics instruction, the center also offers Civics360, a powerful online learning tool available in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole to promote civic learning for middle school students, which receives over 200,000 hits a year.

“We are one of the leading civic education organizations in the state, if not the country,” Masyada said.

Beyond their current roles, Humphries and Masyada have had rich, robust careers championing civic education and civic involvement in a multitude of settings.

They are united not only by their passion for civics, but also the opportunity they had to cultivate that passion as graduate and doctoral students at the UF College of Education.

Elizabeth Washington, professor of social studies education and preeminent scholar in the field, played a significant role in each of their experiences.

“You don’t just go to a program, you go to a person,” Humphries said.

After earning her master’s degree in social studies education, Humphries taught high school social studies for three years before pursuing her doctorate in curriculum and instruction.

While at UF, she began working as an instructional consultant for the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship during a critical time in the civic education movement. The Sandra Day O’Connor Education Act, passed in 2010, transformed Florida civic requirements and added an end-of-course exam to all middle school civics courses.

“Overnight you had these teachers, who were geography teachers, turn into civics teachers,” Humphries said.

At the Joint Center, Humphries played a key role in easing this transition through training in-service teachers and developing programming and instructional materials to support their success.

Humphries’ professional journey eventually led her to the Bob Graham Center, where she served for more than four years as the civic engagement coordinator.

“I loved every second of my job at the Bob Graham Center,” she said.

There, Humphries coordinated efforts to establish and implement innovative campus programs as well as online courses and resources to support the Center’s mission of revitalizing civic culture in the state.

“I’m so proud of the work we did,” she said. “I’m so proud of the center that exists today – the programs that exist and the people who are leading them.”

Masyada taught social studies at both the middle and high school level for more than 10 years after receiving his master’s degree through the social studies proteach program. Just two years into his teaching career, he also began his doctorate in curriculum and instruction.

He spent nine of the 10 years at a small, rural Florida high school, where he had the opportunity to teach many of his student several years in a row in various subjects.

With a teaching philosophy of fostering a classroom of care centered around civic engagement, Masyada sought to empower students to use their voices and understand their potential to advocate for change in the community and beyond.

“For me really the big thing was modeling for my students civic engagement and civic life,” he said.

Masyada shared the relationships he built with students — many of whom he is still connected with today — were what made teaching such a rewarding experience.

“The chance to make a difference in students’ lives and, you know, seeing where they are now, is just fantastic,” he said. 

Exploring his love and passion for curriculum writing, Masyada’s path led him to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction where he served as a K-12 social studies consultant for over two years. In this role, he oversaw district-level professional development for social studies teachers as well as designed, developed and implemented curriculum material and standards for the state.

Looking to the future, Humphries and Masyada plan to continue their work to prepare teachers and propel civic education to the forefront in schools.

For Humphries, she plans to continue her efforts at iCivics to advocate for high-quality, equitable and engaging civic learning materials that reach students across the country.

“We listen, we keep our ears to the ground, and when states seem to have the energy and the will to enhance their civics requirements, we say: ‘How can we help you?’” she said. “Here’s what we know about what works.”

For the field at large, Humphries hopes to see by the nation’s 250th birthday every state has established robust and reimagined civic education requirements that are designed for the future of civics.

“That’s the end goal,” she said, “there’s no question.”

For Masyada, serving at the Florida Joint Center and Lou Frey Institute has been an incredible experience where he has the opportunity to engage with the things he loves most – civics, curriculum and instruction.

“My passion has always been civics and, you know, engaging in civic life,” he said, “and this is an opportunity to show teachers and students why it matters and to really provide teachers with the resources that can help them get their students involved in civic life.”

He looks forward to continuing this work and supporting teachers in equipping students of all ages for civic life.

I just want to make a difference,” he said. “I want the work I do to matter. I want to help teachers help the next generation of kids – that’s probably the biggest thing.”