For one of my classes this semester, a professor asked us to write a one page introduction essay outlining who we are. I haven’t been nearly as active with my writing and reflecting in the last year or so on here, so I think this could serve as a nice transition piece since I am no longer in a classroom and some of you who are reading might not actually know what I’m doing right now. I feel as though this brief introduction is a pretty straightforward look at who I am, why I’m at Vanderbilt, and what the future could hold. -AS
I was born in outside of Charlotte, North Carolina and after a brief stint of living in Ohio thanks to my father’s job, my family returned. We moved in the middle of my second grade year, and my parents never let me forget that I told them that they “ruined my life” for uprooting me, pulling me away from my Brownie troop and my drama classes (because clearly, I needed those). My parents sent my brother and I to public school while maintaining non-denominational Christian faith at home. I always loved learning, and my Type A personality worked in my favor throughout my years of school. I have always been a strict rule follower and never liked disappointing others. I take great pride in the work that I do, and have always been organized. I like to play guitar and sing, play tennis, and do various crafty things like handletter or paint. Rarely have I ever turned down chances to grab a beer and watch UNC basketball, and I am an avid Twitter and Ticonderoga user. I am also a sucker for a great story.
Regarding education policy interests, I am particularly interested in issues around equity and teacher leadership. I frequently wonder what happens to the students who do not receive the vouchers (or opportunity scholarships, depending on which side of the aisle one may sit); what happens to the students who do not have any school choice; what happens to the students who do not have teachers to speak in their defense. It frustrates me knowing that there are winners and losers in education, when I strongly believe that every child deserves a good education. After spending five years teaching in public schools across the Triangle region of North Carolina, teacher leadership is also something with which I regularly battled. I attempted to create committees to deliver teacher-led professional development, I asked for positions that would leverage my leadership ability to help others outside of my classroom, and each endeavor was squelched in some way. I “did not have enough experience” or I was “too young” to pursue positions of that nature within my schools. I do not believe that years of experience in a classroom alone define the capacity of an individual educator; because of this, I have enjoyed reading about school leadership and various models that could reshape what that looks like so that teachers, administrators, and students all benefit.
I had never really considered myself super political—as a registered Independent, I have always placed my political action in voting for the best person who I thought would deliver on his or her promises, regardless of party. As a teacher, I realized the importance of taking a stance and becoming political, and current events—from Trump’s inauguration to NASA finding new planets—would come up in my classroom on a regular basis. I started reaching out to my legislative representatives, inviting them into my classroom to see what was going on in a school; this led to additional opportunities to meet at the General Assembly in Raleigh, and I started attending committee meetings. I continue to keep up with North Carolina and national news.
After graduating with my MPP, I am unsure what the best path will be for me to take. I often miss teaching and the connections with students, but at the same time feel a very urgent call to do something greater for students everywhere. As a product of public schools, I feel dedicated to staying in the public sector. It is important to me that I do not lose touch with what is going on in schools, as I believe that in order to make good education policy, one must be up-to-date with school happenings. I do not have a great desire to work in a school district’s central office or a department of public instruction, as those both seem far removed from the sacred work of teaching. My deepest desire is to help others through the lens of education, and currently I am very open to learning more about what opportunities will allow me to do just that.