For her passion to harness each and every one of her students’ full potential, Amanda Levy ’11, a sixth grade history lead teacher at Success Academy Harlem East, was recently honored with a Teacher Excellence Award. Levy was chosen as one of just 24 teachers from nearly 1,000 to receive the award, which recognizes outstanding educators for their exceptional ability to raise student achievement and model best practices.
“It is an absolute honor to be awarded the Teacher Excellence Award,” Levy says. “To be honest, teaching is a relentless job. No matter how hard I work at it or how many small victories I’ve had with students over the past four years, there are many days I do not feel successful. So as you can imagine, I’m incredibly grateful to be publicly recognized and deeply appreciate the support from my colleagues and school community at Success Academy.”
The award winners were nominated by their principals, who identified teachers whose work with students was exemplary, and who embodied the key values of Success Academy’s teaching, such as student engagement, preparation, and feedback. Eva Moskowitz, Success Academy’s founder and chief executive officer, said that the 24 teachers chosen to receive the award have “empowered their scholars to achieve exceptional academic and personal growth,” while “consistently inspiring all to excel.”
Success Academy is a free public charter school network with the dual mission of building world-class public schools across New York City and advancing education reform across the country. They operate 34 schools, serving 11,000 scholars in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The academy draws 76 percent of students from low-income households, 88 percent students of color, and 12 percent special needs students.
The school also places an emphasis on intellectually preparing educators to deliver purposeful, well-planned lessons as they seek to develop strong, capable teachers. For Levy, her lessons allow her to build relationships with her students while putting her passion for teaching into practice.
“The most rewarding part of teaching for me is engaging with students all day long,” says Levy. “I think one of the main reasons I’m drawn to teaching middle school is because I too have a ton of energy and want a place to release it. For me, it’s in my lessons!”
Her desire to create an inclusive classroom for her diverse set of students, which Levy says stemmed from her courses and experiences at HWS, is another aspect of her teaching that distinguishes her from her colleagues. She says that after taking courses such as “Teaching for Equity” and “Civil Rights Education,” with Assistant Professor of Education Khuram Hussain, she discovered how she wanted to approach the classroom and communities she would be entering – with awareness to her students’ geographic, socio-economic, and racial makeup.
Levy adds that her student teaching experience at HWS was instrumental in teaching her the power of getting to know students outside of the classroom and inside the community. For her, teaching is all about the students.
“The job of teaching is not about adults, or adult satisfaction,” says Levy. “It’s about harnessing your students’ potential. Any day I can do that is a win.”
Although Levy says that teaching is her main focus right now, she’d eventually like to become a professor of education so she can use her experience to “inform and inspire future educators,” as her HWS professors did for her.
Wishing success upon all HWS students planning to pursue a teaching career, Levy leaves them with a piece of advice learned through her own experiences:
“It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone,” she says. “Alas, you will not improve at teaching overnight. If you work on it, and yourself, every day, your classroom will gradually become a place where both you and students feel comfortable.”