Position: English Teacher/College Access Chair School: Science/Engineering Magnet High School at the Townview Center
School District: Dallas Independent School District
City, State: Dallas, Texas
About the Nominee: Amanda Ashmead was nominated by her principal, Tiffany Huitt.
Amanda Ashmead demonstrates a love for her profession, a love of children and a commitment to her school and community. She holds multiple leadership roles at her school, including, but not limited to, College Access Chair, Humanities Department Chair and Campus Instructional Leadership Team member. Ms. Ashmead is not just interested in the academic accomplishments of Science/Engineering Magnet High School (SEM) students; she is interested in her students’ overall well-being.
She is a great communicator and problem-solver; every action she takes on campus is for and about kids. During her first year at the school, she noticed that the SEM student body was 75% boys and 25% girls. She went to Principal Huitt after school, and for hours, they discussed the equality of women in the workplace, women in STEM careers and how to support women in a male-dominated workforce. She made it her duty to start an after-school club for girls called Inter-girls. It has been a huge success! The faculty have noticed female students taking on more leadership roles and an overall improvement in their confidence. The skills they learn in Inter-girls will last them a lifetime. The SEM student body now consists of 29% girls, a number which grows each year.
Ms. Ashmead has also worked to change systems for the campus, including college preparation systems. Over the past three years, she has worked to improve SAT, ACT and PSAT scores. She has attended Princeton Review Training and incorporated these preparation courses in her English classes, after school and on Saturdays. SEM’s average SAT score has increased from 1786-1950 over the past three years. The school has also had significant increases in ACT and PSAT scores. Ms. Ashmead also ensures that each student receives guidance on their college applications and college essays. How does she do this? For one, she provides snacks and juice to students during Saturday tutorials, and she conferences with each and every one of them about their test scores. She helps students set goals for their target colleges, profiles their scores and helps to monitor their progress. Each student has their own personal coach and cheerleader in Ms. Ashmead. She also hosts a rising senior college preparation camp over the summer, helping the students with their essays and helping teachers write recommendation letters. She has completely changed the way SEM works with providing college access for students. As a result of her work, SEM had 89 graduating seniors. 100% of them were accepted to college, and they received $14.1 million in scholarships and grants.
Most importantly, Ms. Ashmead knows the little details regarding students’ and teachers’ lives. She often works with Principal Huitt so that they can support a faculty member or a student before their situation has a significant impact on them. This supports the culture of the SEM campus. She stays late, arrives early and works on Saturdays. She sacrifices so much time for students that Principal Huitt often has to tell her to go home! Her room is a comfortable place for students to hang out; some of them even choose to hang out in her room for lunch. When one walks into her classroom, they can feel the love and rapport she has with her students.
Ms. Ashmead creates and conducts professional development for the staff, but being Ms. Ashmead, she goes above and beyond. This year, she decided to lead the government and economics teachers that are new to the Townview Center from several schools (Business, SEM and TAG). She met with the new teachers over the summer and once every six weeks during the year to ensure they have the support needed to teach the curriculum. One might find it interesting that she’s helping economics teachers, when her main subject is English. At her previous school, however, she taught Economics and had one of the highest pass rates in the district, so when she saw the need for a leader within this department, she jumped in to help. As a leader of the Humanities Department, she is helping to redesign the entire curriculum to integrate history and English. Ms. Ashmead has presented at a number of national and location conferences, for organizations like College Board, Advancing Improvement Education (AIE) in Texas and the National Consortium of Secondary Stem Schools (NCSS).
Ms. Ashmead demonstrates the LifeChanger criteria in many ways!