2014 Class of ’54 Alumni Awards

Location: United States

Class of ’54 Commitment to Teaching Fellowship for Alumni Recipients 2014

Amherst is proud of its recent graduates who have chosen to teach in urban and other school systems where students may be considered “at risk” or are socio-economically disadvantaged.  Through the generosity of the Class of 1954, which has established a Commitment to Teaching Fund, Amherst is able each year to award stipends to a limited number of Amherst graduates who have been teaching for ten years or less.

The 2014 awardee biographies are listed below.

Delano Asante ‘05 teaches 8th grade ELA at Harlem Village Academies – Leadership in Harlem, New York.  Before joining HVA four years ago, he taught 6th grade Reading for two years at Langston Hughes Academy charter school in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Prior to Louisiana, Del taught 7th grade History and Writing in Houston, Texas at YES Prep – North Central.  Del started his teaching career in 2006 as part of Teach For America’s Houston Corps and has served in multiple leadership roles over the years, including as a summer school director in Harlem and Houston and as a Corps Member Advisor as a TFA alumnus.  Forced out of violent East New York, Brooklyn schools at the age of twelve, Del educated himself on the streets of New York before returning to school at the age of eighteen to earn his G.E.D.  He attended the Borough of Manhattan Community College for two years before graduating and transferring to Amherst in January of 2003.  Del’s unconventional upbringing motivates him to approach education with purpose, passion and perspective.  His teaching philosophy is grounded in his life experience and world-view.  He believes “The highest level of giving is giving in a way that makes the recipient self-sufficient”, and it is with this philosophy in mind that he approaches his work.  Del is currently trying his hand at writing a book based on his life with hopes of magnifying his impact in years to come.

Ron Espiritu ’06 graduated from Amherst College in 2006 with a double major in History and Interdisciplinary studies with a focus in Chicano literature. He decided to bring his passions for both of these subjects to the high school classroom. After graduation Ron moved across the country and started teaching 12th Grade English in South Los Angeles as part of the Teach for America program. In 2008 he graduated from Loyola Marymount University earning a Masters degree in Education and began teaching Ethnic Studies and Chicano/African-American studies at Animo South Los Angeles High School. The two classes focus on building understanding and solidarity between students of different ethnicities through the careful examination of movements for social change in the US and around the world. He is also a founding member of The People’s Education Movement, a grassroots community organization that mobilizes educators to fight for social justice in and out of the classroom.  The organization supports teachers in the development of decolonizing pedagogical approaches through teacher inquiry groups and also supports local and national campaigns that defend and promote Ethnic Studies approaches to teaching.

Ellen Ferrin ’07 grew up on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, WA. While at Amherst, Ellen majored in Black Studies and Sociology and received a Five College Certificate in Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies. She played rugby, directed the Vagina Monologues, and was a Resident Counselor and Peer Advocate throughout her time at Amherst. Ellen also worked as a substitute teacher at nearby Cushman Scott Children’s Center and participated in the Urban Education Internship program in New York. After graduating in 2007, Ellen moved to Boston where she managed a residential home for teenage girls. During this time Ellen came to see even more clearly the connection between social work and education, and in 2009 she moved to New York to pursue a dual masters degree program in those areas. She completed her Masters in Social Work at Columbia University in 2011, and received her Masters in Childhood General and Special Education from Bank Street College in 2013. Her masters thesis addressed ways that teachers can foster resilience through classroom practice. She has worked as a middle school social worker and as a program developer in the child welfare system, and has been teaching at Bronx Community Charter School for the last three years. Currently Ellen teaches fifth grade in an Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classroom.

Montgomery True Ogden ’09 graduated from Amherst with a major in English. He spent the summer of 2008 implementing educational programs for children at the Eric Carle Museum for Picture Book Art through funding from the Center for Community Engagement. The innate curiosity for books that visiting children displayed inspired him to seek out a path to teaching. After graduating he spent two years living in Northampton, overseeing the college’s Resident Counselor staff as an Area Coordinator, writing poetry, and visiting Humphries House for dinner. During that time he also coached the Amherst Women’s Ultimate team. In 2010 he moved back to Philadelphia to enroll in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. His masters program prepared teachers for work in an urban environment with a foundation in an inquiry-based model of education. Since 2011 he has taught at Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, a neighborhood school, as an 11th and 12th English teacher with a bilingual Spanish certification. He is proud to be a member of a vibrant, collaborative staff with a commitment to helping young people challenge and re-imagine the limits of their circumstances.

Jessica Ross ’04 is a middle school teacher in the public schools of New York City. She began her teaching career as a Teach For America Corps Member and founding teacher of Bronx Latin Middle School in the South Bronx. She spent her first three years at Bronx Latin as a Math Teacher, then served as a Math Coach and Dean of Students. Missing her role as a teacher, Jessica returned to the classroom in 2008 as a 6th grade Math and Science Teacher at Tompkins Square Middle School in the East Village of Manhattan. Jessica earned a Master of Science in Childhood Education at BankStreet College of Education and holds a general education teaching license for grades 1-6 in New York State. Jessica is a member of the Class of 2004, majored in Economics, and is a former captain of the Amherst Volleyball and Softball teams.

Matthew Yellin ’09 is a Social Studies teacher and Curriculum Coordinator at Hillside Arts and Letters Academy, located in Jamaica, Queens (NY). Matthew was a member of the founding staff of HALA, which was opened in 2010 with the mission of creating a small arts-themed public school for the students of New York City. During his four years there, he has taught Global History, Government, Economics, and Advisory, and has mentored and coached several colleagues. Matthew graduated from Amherst College in 2009, with a major in Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought. While at Amherst, he tutored in the El Arco Iris program and hosted a radio show on WAMH. After Amherst, he attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he completed the one year Teacher Education Program, and student taught in a Boston Public high school. During his summers, he has pursued a variety of learning and travel opportunities that included receiving a grant to attend a National Endowment for the Humanities workshop on teaching religions and a Facing History workshop on Race in America. Matthew currently lives in Astoria, Queens.