Last June, Blackstone Valley Prep named Elementary School 2 first grade teacher Amanda Gotay its 2021-2022 Network Teacher of the Year.
We recently spoke to Mrs. Gotay, a Rhode Island College graduate in her 12th year of teaching and fourth at BVP, about her role as an early childhood educator, the new ELA curriculum, and much more.
BVP: How did you choose teaching as a career? Specifically, why elementary school?
AG: Teaching has been a passion of mine since I could remember. I recall playing “teacher” with my siblings when I was a little girl and it was always my dream job. I had my first job as a teen leader at a summer camp program when I was 14 years old. I chose elementary school because I absolutely love watching the academic, social, and emotional growth children show in the beginning of their educational career. As an early childhood educator, I shape children into human beings who are accepting of all people, who begin thinking critically about topics, and who love listening to or reading text, writing, and math. I’ve always worked with young children and had the privilege of seeing them meet their most rigorous goals.
BVP: What drew you to Blackstone Valley Prep?
AG: As a first generation college graduate, BVP’s mission to prepare every scholar for success in college and the world beyond drew me to becoming a parent at BVP first. My son, Camryn Williams, was a Kindergarten scholar at BVP a year before I became a teacher at ES2. His teacher’s level of communication and support allowed me to support his academic growth at home. I also received photos and updates throughout the year and felt so comfortable reaching out directly to his teachers when any concerns arose. Camryn left kindergarten feeling confident in his academic abilities and ready for first grade. I also felt respected and valued as a parent and wanted to be a part of a school community that shared the same mission I had for my own children.
BVP: What keeps you at BVP?
AG: I’ve worked in the early childhood field for the last 12 years and I’ve never worked in a place like this one. BVP’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is one of the things that keeps me here. As a teacher of color, I feel heard, respected, and appreciated at BVP. We address issues like police brutality, racism, ableism, LGBTQ, and other factors that may impact the lives of both teachers and children. I remain at BVP because it is a reflective space in which leaders and teachers are always working to improve the education our scholars receive.
BVP: [Elementary School 2 Head of School] Sara Tucker said you pushed yourself to join the ELA Curriculum Adoption Committee. Tell us a little about that committee, why you wanted to be a part of it, and any major outcomes.
AG: The ELA Curriculum Adoption Committee was created when BVP was mandated by RIDE to adopt a highly rated ELA curriculum for grades K-4. Being a part of the ELA Curriculum Adoption Committee was an opportunity for teachers, deans, heads of schools, and the chief academic officer to review five different curriculum options. Teachers also had the opportunity to pilot some lessons in our classrooms before we officially adopted the curriculum. It gave teachers like myself a chance to be a part of the decision making process that would impact us the upcoming school year. As a result of the work we did last school year, we adopted the EL curriculum. It offers children learning opportunities about topics like Toys and Play, Tools and Work, or Sun Moon and Stars. It also offers hands-on learning experiences that build oral language and support content knowledge.
Mrs. Gotay truly believes that ALL children can learn and succeed. She is always working to adjust her practice to reflect the needs of her students and provide the best instruction possible. — Sara Tucker, Head of School
BVP: What’s one accomplishment you’re proud of?
AG: I’m extremely proud of becoming a certified teacher in Rhode Island. I’m proud of this goal because in the beginning of my career, I wasn’t sure it was attainable. Family circumstances led me to graduating with a degree in liberal arts, so I could support my family. I did not become certified the “traditional way.” In fact, after receiving my degree in liberal arts, I began working in child care centers prior to working towards my teacher certification. Additionally, I had to get my certification through a program called the Credential Review Pathway at Rhode Island College. It allowed me to use courses I’ve taken in education, apply for my masters, and use my position as a lead teacher in pre-K programs for my student teaching requirement. After meeting all requirements for the Credential Review Pathway, I was able to take the Praxis test and get certified for Early Childhood K-2.
BVP: What is your favorite and/or the most rewarding part of your job?
AG: The most rewarding part of my job is witnessing scholars’ individual growth throughout the year. It makes me extremely proud to know that I was a part of their growth and development.
BVP: Finish this sentence. Scholars in my class can expect…
AG: To be loved, supported, heard, safe, and to meet their individual most rigorous learning goals.