Amherst Magazine

Hey, Teach

By Katherine Duke ’05

One Friday night, over dinner at a banquet in Lewis-Sebring, Becky Wilusz ’93, Mabel Lajes-Guiteras ’99 and Teri Bruce ’88 began to chat about being teachers. They confided worries about pregnant teens they know. And they laughed about the funny things that students will say in the throes of adolescent angst.

The three women were among about 30 alumni who gathered at Amherst in May for the inaugural Educators’ Spring Weekend. For alumni who are teachers, school administrators and curriculum specialists, the weekend offered ample opportunity to share ideas and opinions. Sessions included a panel on why some charter schools thrive while others collapse. There was a how-to on using museums as a teaching resource. Professor of English Barry O’Connell invited the alumni to sit in on his Democracy and Education class.

The network is part of an ongoing effort at Amherst to support public primary and secondary education. Chris Kuipers ’01 helped to establish the network last fall, when he was assistant director of Alumni and Parent Programs. (He now chairs the history department at the Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield, Mass.)

At one of the weekend’s panels, Bekki Lee, associate dean of students and assistant director of the Career Center, related a story from the early 1990s, when a graduating senior came to her office in tears. The student was upset because friends had said it would be a waste of her Amherst degree to pursue her dream job as a public school principal.  Today, Lee believes, the climate has changed, as many more Amherst students recognize teaching as a worthy career.

“A lot of people go into teaching without ever really having loved learning,” noted Keith Millner ’92, who develops reading curricula in Houston. “That passion about my own learning is what serves me best as a teacher.”