Terry Shaipitisiri

Photo Credit: Simon Goodacre

May 18, 2017

Simon Goodacre | Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Heritage and identity have shaped the Brandeis experience for Terry Shaipitisiri BA’17, MAT’17. Her mother migrated to the United States as a refugee from Laos during the Vietnam War, and her father immigrated from Thailand hoping to pursue better opportunities. As a Fulbright instructor and cultural ambassador, Shaipitisiri is thrilled to have an opportunity to teach children to speak English in her father’s homeland next year.

“I am excited to see how the relationships with my students will be as I am a Thai-American myself,” she says. “I will be equipping them with a language tool, the English language, that can help them pursue dreams abroad if they ever want to come to the States, like my father.”

Shaipitisiri had not considered visiting Thailand until recently. “I was so stuck on being born and raised in America and being an American,” she says. “I had never thought about revisiting my father’s homeland,” but, “as I am ending my journey in college, I thought that it would a good explorative experience for me to figure out my own roots and learn about my own history.”

Born and raised in College Park, Georgia, Shaipitisiri joined Brandeis as an undergraduate Posse Scholar and minored in Education Studies with the hopes of eventually pursuing education reform. She strongly believes that “having teachers of color is very critical” in a field predominantly populated with White women. “I, as an Asian American woman, hope to be one of the many faces that help change the demographics of the teaching field to better represent the students we serve.”

Shaipitisiri plans to pursue a degree in education policy, but she “wanted to experience the system as an educator before trying to promote any real changes.” She discovered her passion for education as an undergraduate. “Education is truly the foundation of everything that we know and learn, whether it is in a school or outside of it,” she says. “Teachers can truly help or hurt a student by what they bring into their classroom and the relationships they build with their students. Coming from the South, I was not aware that issues that I faced in my own educational experience were national issues.”

The MAT program has been a very positive experience for Shaipitisiri. “The exposure and experience I am getting is all one could really ask for in order to be a quality educator,” she says. “I love that along with the classes, I get real time experience to put theory to practice. This year, I have already worked with ninety-seven seventh graders at McDevitt Middle School in Waltham and am now working as an eighth grade substitute social studies teacher at the same school!”

Shaipitisiri was encouraged to apply for the Fulbright by Kim Godsoe, Brandeis University’s Academic Provost, and Samson Lim, the Director of Graduate and Fellowship Programs at the Posse Foundation. “Meredith Monaghan, the Director of Academic Fellowships, and Elizabeth Rotolo, the Assistant Director of Academic Fellowships, have guided me through all of the ropes of applying to the fellowship. Without their constant feedback and assistance, I would have not been able to complete the process with such confidence in myself.”

As she plans for her year abroad, Shaipitisiri has a few words of advice for students interested in becoming educators. “If you come into the program with a vision that you have for the education field, you will do amazingly well,” she says. “Knowing your purpose and getting what you want out of the experience will take you a step closer to your goals, both for yourself and for the world of education! This motivation will keep your head in the game when the going gets rough because there will be those times. I am still having them but my vision, passion, and students keep me going!”