Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Dryer '13 brings Brandeis 'magic' to Teach For America

Oct. 07, 2013

The Hiatt Career Center connects Brandeis students to diverse year in service organizations and programs, including AmeriCorps, Teach for America, Peace Corps and many more. These opportunities empower students to give back in support of the issues they are most passionate about.

Amanda Dryer ’13 currently serves with Teach For America (TFA) as a kindergarten teacher at Bushwick Ascend Charter School in New York, NY. TFA is a national teacher corps of college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years and raise student achievement in public schools. TFA is Brandeis’ top hiring employer, bringing on nearly 30 graduates from the 2013 class.

As a TFA corps member, Amanda co-teaches in an inclusion classroom, which means that more than half of the students have special needs. Dryer credits her success in TFA to her preparatory experience in Brandeis’ education program.

Dryer shares insight on her experience as a Brandeis graduate and TFA corps member:

When my challah bread set the toaster on fire at St. John’s University, I turned to my fellow Brandeisian and said, “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” I spent the summer at St. John’s University at Teach For America’s teacher boot camp with two other Brandeisians, Sara Van Buren ’13 and Katrina Osborne '13. 

AmandaDryerBeing an Education Studies major, I had the opportunity to study education inequity, but this summer I witnessed education inequity first hand. I taught summer school in the Bronx to incoming third graders. The public school that I taught at tracks students starting in 2nd grade into high and low level classes. My students knew that they were in the lowest class and, as a result, they felt inadequate. I did everything that I could have done to instill confidence in my students starting with the theme of my classroom, which was TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More, and every student had an Ollie the Owl name decal. Our motto was DTRT: Do the Right Thing. As summer school came to a close, I finally felt like I was making a difference when one of my students who could barely read in the beginning of the summer sounded out “Brandeis University” on a basketball I had given her.

As I said goodbye to my summer school students, I questioned whether or not I could make a difference with my new students at Bushwick Ascend Charter School. When I found out that I’d be teaching kindergarten, I feared that my classroom would resemble a scene from Kindergarten Cop when Arnold Schwarzenegger lost control of his class and screamed, “Shut up!”

Putting all jokes aside, my classroom is far from perfect but my students continue to amaze me each and everyday. My students come from a wide range of backgrounds and some of them have special needs. My favorite part of the day is watching my students take part in morning motivation. At morning motivation, every class is required to sing the fight song of the university that their teacher graduated from. Ms. Elliot (my co-teacher) and I say, “Order in the court.” My students respond, “We owls were meant to fly. Reach up and touch the sky! Learning and changing lives. Watch us grow right before your eyes! HOOT-HOOT-HOOT-HOOT-HOOT: BRANDEIS!” My students sing about Brandeis as if it is a magical place in an enchanted fairytale. They sing with a sparkle in their eyes, a sense of wonder about what college might be like. I hope they never lose their curiosity. 

More Information:

Learn more about TFA when they visit Brandeis for the following Hiatt-sponsored events:

Year in Service & Volunteer Fair
Tuesday, Oct. 8, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (Sherman Hall, Hassenfeld)

Employer Office Hours: TFA
Tuesday, Oct. 8, 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Hiatt Career Center)

Employer Office Hours: TFA
Wednesday, Oct. 9, 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Hiatt Career Center)