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Class of ’54 Commitment To Teaching Alumni Fellowship
Amherst is proud of its recent graduates who have chosen to teach in urban and other school systems where students may be considered “at risk” or are socio-economically disadvantaged. Through the generosity of the Class of 1954, which has established a Commitment to Teaching Fund, Amherst is able each year to award stipends to a limited number of Amherst graduates who have been teaching for ten years or less.
The 2008 awardee biographies are listed immediately below along with a snapshot of the school they work in, and an inspirational quote.
Delano Asante ’05
Seventh Grade English Language Arts and Spanish Teacher, YES Prep Public Schools, Houston, TX
Finding his own elementary and secondary education lacking, Delano dropped out of school and pursued independent education, ultimately earning a G.E.D., enrolling in community college, and then transferring to Amherst. Delano earned a BA in history from Amherst in 2005. At Amherst he tutored underserved children through the El Arco Iris program and served as president of the Amherst College Expeditions Group.
His own personal history growing up in the inner city and experiencing several hardships inspired his commitment to teaching. He left a position as a financial analyst at Goldman, Sachs, & Co. to pursue that commitment through Teach For America, and currently teaches 7th graders in Houston, TX. His department head notes that Del exemplifies all of the core values of YES College Preparatory Schools: pursuing excellence, building positive relationships, serving and improving communities, and creating new opportunities and experiences.
Quote: As a teacher, I understand that our inner-city and rural public education system is tasked with not only educating students but also contending with the many social ills that interfere with student education. There is enormous pressure on many of our students to follow in the footsteps of people in their neighborhoods, and that is why so many drop out, do drugs, engage in promiscuous behavior, gang activity, etc. Some of my current projects exist to redress these issues. To aid student’s ability to problem-solve and share experiences, I founded a student-led newspaper that gives students an outlet to express themselves. In the process of writing, editing, and publishing the paper, students are also learning many work-related skills that will prepare them for the real world.
About YES College Preparatory Schools
Founded in 1998, YES is a free, open-enrollment public school system that prepares low-income minority students for college graduation. YES’ rigorous 6th-12th grade academic model includes a longer school day and a mandatory Saturday school and summer school program. In addition, the YES charter mandates that students must be accepted to a four-year college in order to receive their high school diploma. There are currently four YES campuses in the greater Houston area that serve nearly 1,500 students.
YES has a proven track record of success: 100% of the graduating seniors (six classes) have been accepted to a four-year college or university, 85% of the students are first-generation college-bound, and Newsweek ranked YES as one of the top 100 public high schools in the nation. This annual list represents the top 1% of all public schools nationwide and YES was the only school in Houston to be included on the list.
Nicole Martí ’00
ESL Teacher and College Advisor, Newcomers High School, Long Island City, NY
Nicole has wanted to be a teacher ever since she was in junior high school. At Amherst she majored in comparative religion, volunteered in the Cambodian Tutoring Program, and worked with students and professors in the campus computer lab. After graduating from Amherst, she worked as an assistant English as a second language teacher in a program for junior high school students located at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn, and then left the U.S. to teach English in Santiago, Chile. Upon her return from Chile, she earned her Master’s degree in Education from New York University.
Since 2004, Nicole has taught at Newcomers High School, an urban high school specifically designed for new immigrants to the U.S. She teaches students to question and think critically, as well as helping them develop strong reading and writing skills, prompting them with such challenging topics as multiple intelligences, gender roles, fast food, and personal beliefs. In addition to teaching, Nicole also works as a college advisor, helping graduating seniors with their college choices, essay writing and scholarship applications.
In my career today, everyday I see the impact that a lack of education can have, even on a bright, promising young person. As an English as a Second Language teacher, my goal is to provide my students with the strong education and language skills they will need for their futures in college and beyond. As soon as I began my career, I fell in love with the rewards of teaching: seeing the students improve and form relationships with me and with one another, watching a community grow in our classroom, and finding that even in a few weeks of teaching, I was growing as a teacher as well. I knew that this was not only my dream; it was definitely the career for me. At Newcomers High School, our school is like a second home to many of the students, so I know that they care very much about what happens in their school environment. Therefore, I often plan my lessons around school-related issues. This is very successful in getting the students engaged and it creates a community of involvement in our classroom.
Newcomers High School is an urban high school of about 1,000 students located in Long Island City, New York. It is a school specifically designed for new immigrants to the US and its demographics are as diverse as the borough of Queens itself. The largest immigrant groups at the school are from Ecuador, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Bangladesh, although there are a wide range of countries and language groups represented in the student body. Just as students come from various language and ethnic backgrounds, they also range widely in their level of education and language experience. Students at Newcomers excel academically in spite of the new language and culture that they quickly have to learn and the poverty that many of them are facing. Every year, they attain excellent scores on their state exams and nearly all seniors attend college after graduation. This is a testament to the students’ hard-work and motivation to succeed, as well as to the tremendous dedication and effort on the part of the teachers and staff at Newcomers.
Helen Dole ’04
Sixth and Eighth Grade Science Teacher, School for Democracy and Leadership, Brooklyn, NY
Helen comes from a long line of teachers, including her grandmother, mother, sister, and brother. At Amherst she majored in geology and participated in field trips to St. Lucia, Michigan, and Ireland. In 2004 she joined New York City Teaching Fellows and became one of the founding teachers at School for Democracy and Leadership, a new small public school that is part of a movement in New York City to replace large failing schools and offer students an academically rigorous college preparatory option. In her time at SDL she has taught several science courses as well as serving as the middle school track and field coach, yearbook editor, 8th grade graduation coordinator, and school testing coordinator. Currently she is the middle school double dutch coach, middle school science fair coordinator, middle school representative to Educators with Social Responsibility, and 8th grade prom and senior trip coordinator. She enjoys sharing her passion for the outdoors and the environment with others.
Quote: My classroom includes many opportunities for students to be involved in hands-on investigations. It also provides a place for students to become responsible scholars through the way they organize their assignments, materials, and time. My students know that I am available by phone for their homework questions. They also know that I will do my best to provide them with opportunities to do science outside the classroom—be it on a field trip to the New York Aquarium or during a summer internship program at a nearby cancer research laboratory. I want to create opportunities for my students to see how science can be one way that they can help to change the world for the better.
School For Democracy and Leadership is a 6-12 grade school located in Brooklyn, NY, working to cultivate leaders and learners who are agents of change and responsible citizens. Students will strengthen their own voices as they learn to hear and respond to the voices of others. SDL emphasizes high academic achievement, a rigorous college preparatory curriculum for every child, and a close connection to the larger community. Graduates will be confident leaders and critical thinkers whose academic accomplishments, ownership of their own learning, and sense of connection with the larger community will have empowered them to become meaningful participants in the world around them.
Nicole Scott ’97
High School English Language Arts Teacher and Spanish Language Teacher, Essex Street Academy, New York, NY
After graduating from Amherst with a BA in English Literature, Nikki worked as a writer and editor focused on career development and higher education. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, she joined the recovery effort, first as a field officer for FEMA, and then as a community educator for the September 11th Fund’s Ongoing Recovery Program, facilitating informational workshops in English and Spanish for individuals affected by the disaster. She enjoyed helping people and began volunteering for educational projects such as social issues curriculum design and tutoring ESL students. She began teaching full-time in 2004 at Essex Street Academy (formerly the High School for History and Communication) in New York, a small school created through New Visions for Public Schools. In addition to teaching, she plans the school’s weekly town meeting, runs the peer-tutoring program, and manages grant-writing and hiring for the school.
Quote: I became a teacher for a combination of reasons. I did it because I value public education, because I value people, and because I love teaching and learning. I am most satisfied with my work when I see that what I do affects the lives of others in important ways. I thrive in environments where I interact with people every day, and I am good at sharing knowledge. I had an excellent public school education, amazing opportunities have been extended to me throughout my life, and I want more people to have access to the things I’ve had a chance to enjoy. This is an important and challenging time to be a teacher in New York City, and I love a challenge. I love what I do. I motivate students, I teach them, I joke with the, I work hard to inspire them and make them reflect on themselves as academics and as human beings.
I want my students to be as passionate and dedicated to their own education as I have been my entire life. I connect with their parents and invite them to get involved as well. It is a lot of work, but the variety keeps the kids interested and me on my toes. I work with diverse learners, so I work hard to make lessons relevant to my students’ lives, and I always remind them that there is never one answer to the larger questions that we tackle in the classroom and the world. I encourage them to connect with the material at their own level. I am always learning from my students’ reactions to new material, and my students feel like empowered contributors to the learning process. I push my students to be reflective thinkers, to be dreamers, and to never stop fighting.