Amanda Pertierra: Serving Students and Families by Building Community
If you had asked Amanda Pertierra when she went off to college about ways to make our society a more just place, education would not have been at the top of her list.
“I was actually more interested in journalism and international development,” said Amanda, who graduated from Middlebury College in 2013. “My parents are from the Philippines, and seeing the inequities there sparked my interest in social justice issues. But education, at that time, did not strike me as a pathway to addressing them.”
Amanda’s perspective shifted during her time at Middlebury after she volunteered to teach English as a second language to migrant dairy farm workers in Vermont.
“Through that experience, I became more curious about social justice issues here in the U.S.,” Amanda said. “I also began to see a lot of similarities between journalism and education. Journalism fascinated me because it involved taking different ideas and trying to find ways to communicate them and repackage them for a new audience. That’s basically what teaching is.”
While Amanda considered how education could create a more just society, she also sought a strong faith community. After a casual conversation with a friend who was familiar with ACE Teaching Fellows, Amanda decided to explore a potential career in teaching.
After a year as a ninth-grade teaching assistant in the Bronx, Amanda applied to ACE and was placed in Brownsville, Texas, where she taught a sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade social studies at Guadalupe Regional Middle School and developed strong relationships with the school community.
“Working in a school setting, you’re attached to a specific community and you get to know the context of that community as well as possible,” Amanda said. “You’re building relationships with students and their families and working to make a positive impact.”
Amanda’s work with the students and families in Brownsville sparked a greater curiosity in the school choice movement, something that she has carried to her classroom at Cristo Rey New York High School, where she teaches American history to juniors and seniors.
“One of the ideas underlying school choice is that parents are the primary educators of their children,” Amanda said. “We want to give families access to as many high-quality education options as possible, but—realistically speaking—parents don’t know what all of the different options are.”
Amanda sees it as her duty to educate herself on all of the opportunities available and serve as a liaison between her students, their families, and the community.
“The more I know about all the different things going on in our community, the more I can pass along,” Amanda said. “I think about this a lot when it comes to my high school students and the opportunities that are available to them post-graduation. But if you’re a middle school teacher, understanding school choice could be a game changer when you’re advising students on their options when it comes to selecting a high school.”
Amanda’s desire to learn more in order to better serve her students and their families led her to consider additional professional development opportunities, including ACE’s Reform Leaders’ Summit (RLS).
“In order to keep growing in my career, I need access to high-quality professional development, and ACE does it better than anyone I’ve worked with,” Amanda shared.
As a member of the 11th RLS cohort, Amanda has deepened her understanding of the school choice landscape, which has energized her to propel the movement forward and open up avenues for increased collaboration.
“Listening to Howard Fuller and other experts talk in New Orleans about how building momentum for school choice requires talking to teachers, community organizers, and school leaders from different kinds of schools, that showed me you have to engage with a number of different sources in order to build a movement that truly works,” Amanda said. “The Reform Leaders’ Summit gives you access to better understand that reality and provides strategies to apply it to your unique situation.”
Amanda hopes the rest of her RLS experience will continue to deepen her knowledge of school choice and provide her with additional opportunities to make an impact on her school community.
“I’m involved in education because I believe that schools—at their best—form communities,” Amanda continued. “And communities are how we can best achieve change and create better options for students and their families.
“The more you know, the better you can do for your students.”
Learn how you can make a bigger difference in your community as a member of the Reform Leaders' Summit at ace.nd.edu/summit.