Unbound: What is your role in the education system?
Amy: I am a history teacher for grades 9-12. This year I am teaching a senior seminar, Government, Economics, US history, and World history. I have taught middle school geography, ancient history, and US history in the past as well as English in rural Kenya though the YAV program.
Unbound: At what type of school do you work?
Amy: Right now I am teaching at Presentation Academy, which is a Catholic, all-girls school in urban Louisville, KY. Before that, I taught in public urban middle and high schools.
Unbound: Tell me about the demographics of your students.
Amy: This year my students are mainly middle-class although there is some socioeconomic diversity. We also have some racial diversity. One of my favorite aspects of my current school is that I only teach girls and therefore can focus on female empowerment.
Before coming to Presentation Academy, I taught at Westport Middle School, also in Louisville, KY, which is a Title 1 school and very diverse school; Ratta Kenya, serving very poor students who struggled to pay their $150 yearly tuition; Washington, DC, in an extremely diverse setting; and finally, in rural North Carolina in a lower-income, diverse setting.
One of my favorite aspects of my current school is that I only teach girls and therefore can focus on female empowerment.
Unbound: Why do you work in education?
Amy: Teaching is my calling, I love working with young adults every day to challenge them, nurture and support them, and watch them grow. The joy that I experience when I see learning take place is an unbelievable gift that teachers are blessed with. As Nelson Mandela famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I believe in the power of education – and that every child deserves the best, most inspiring, creative, and empowering teachers. I strive to be that teacher each day.
I am also just a huge history nerd and love talking history!
Unbound: Do your worldview and beliefs about religion and ethics affect your work in the school system?
Amy: Absolutely. Teaching is a huge responsibility because you are educating the next generation. I work to nurture peace, expand worldviews, and encourage tolerance and responsibility. We need citizens who stand-up to the injustices of our country and our world.
I am very fortunate right now to teach in a school where I can talk about my own religious beliefs. I can openly ask my students: Who do you think Jesus would worry about in this situation? How do you think Jesus would act?
I am a history teacher, and as such, I firmly believe I have a responsibility to teach the failings of history as well as the triumphs. Often, we only talk about the history of the conquerors, and we forget to discuss and learn about the people upon whom they trampled.
Some of my most powerful lessons involve learning about the past WHILE discussing the present. For example, learning about the Civil Rights movement while talking about Michael Brown, John Crawford, Tamir Rice and others. Each student has their own differing opinion on what is happening in the world, and when they are allowed to share their thoughts in a safe environment, we all leave the class with a broader worldview.
I firmly believe I have a responsibility to teach the failings of history as well as the triumphs. Often, we only talk about the history of the conquerors, and we forget to discuss and learn about the people upon whom they trampled.
In a world that tries its best to tell women what to wear, how much to weigh, how to act, and how to be desirable, it is absolutely critical for me to teach my students to practice thinking for themselves, defending their views, and speaking up!
Unbound: What is the most challenging part of your work?
Amy: Trying to teach critical thinking and empowerment while worrying about standardized state multiple-choice tests at the same time.
Unbound: What is the best part?
Amy: Building relationships with students and being a role model to them. I also love teaching my favorite parts of history
Unbound: Based on your experience, if you could magically enact one large-scale change for education in general, what would it be? Why?
Amy: I believe that instituting a very rigorous process to become a teacher and, in turn, very high pay for teachers would attract and keep excellent teachers. Teaching is an impossible job; I also believe there ought to be two teachers in very class PK-12th grade.
Read more interviews with educators!
Read more articles in this issue: Pedagogy for the Distressed!