2024 Class Of ’54 Alumni Awards

Location: United States

Class of ’54 Commitment to Teaching Fellowship for Alumni Recipients 2024

Amherst is proud of its 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 committed themselves to teaching in underserved communities across the United States. 

The 2024 awardee biographies are listed below.

View the Program Book Here.

Renai Foster ’19 was born and raised in Queens, NY, and is currently a founding English Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Sunset Yards Middle School in Brooklyn, NY. She spent the first four years of her career as an ELA teacher at Bushwick Ascend Middle School. In addition to teaching formally in the classroom, Renai has served as a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism advisor in both school communities. In this role, her weekdays consist of supporting students with their reading, writing, critical thinking, and exploration of literature; coaching teachers and leadership on how to make their classes and school community a more inclusive and equitable environment; and learning alongside other educators how to productively and equitably teach young people to understand their world through a more inclusive lens. 

Renai received her Bachelor of Arts in Black Studies and Psychology from Amherst in 2019. She completed her time at Amherst with a qualitative study titled, “Caring for Ourselves is a Political Act: Black Women, Self-Care and Personal Narratives”– which directly includes the voices of self-identifying Black women in college with the support of Black feminist literature, Black girlhood studies, and qualitative research. She went on to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary English Language Arts from The Relay Graduate School of Education. Her passion is rooted in increasing middle school literacy and promoting equitable and inclusive learning spaces for all students. 

Joey Kelly ’11 is in his 12th year of teaching high school math (and programming) in the Boston area, currently at Waltham High School, where he is always trying to make his classes more active, human, and joyful. Joey deeply enjoys learning with and from other teachers, and lately, he has been learning more about mathematics, leadership, and equity through a fellowship at Boston College. 

Joey graduated from Amherst with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Philosophy. While at Amherst, Joey was strongly impacted by classes in other departments and across the five colleges, studying abroad in India, and participating in Students for Justice in Palestine. His passions for mathematics, learning, and justice led him to enroll in Boston University for his Master of Arts in Teaching in Mathematics Education. 

Kimberly Krayacich ’18 is a 9th-grade special education teacher at Match Charter Public High School in Boston, MA. Kimberly started her teaching journey as an AmeriCorps member, tutoring students in Geometry and Study Skills. Currently, Kimberly provides inclusion support in the English Language Arts classroom; however, she also has experience co-teaching Physics and Composition. She runs a Girls Who Code club, whose mission is to close the gender gap within the tech field. This year, the club is putting together a Computer Science Fair to increase student interest in taking CS classes in 11th and 12th grades. Kimberly has recently taken on the additional role as school librarian and focuses on cultivating a selection of books that represents the MHS student body.

While at Amherst, Kimberly majored in Psychology and French and played on the varsity squash team. Her experience studying psychology has been very helpful in her teaching career, specifically in building partnerships with students and families. 

Deirdre McCarthy ’01 is a 3rd-grade teacher at the Martin Luther King Open School in Cambridge, MA, a K-5 public elementary school located in East Cambridge, MA. King Open serves a diverse population–ethnically, racially, social-emotionally, culturally, and academically. Deirdre seeks to provide students with what they need so children can do what they were born to do—learn, thrive, and connect. She has served on her school’s Literacy and Social & Emotional Leadership teams. 

Dierdre was born in Bronx, NY, and raised by parents who arrived in the US from Ireland while both in their late teen years. If not for their love story and sacrifices, the following experiences she has had the privilege to experience would not have come true. 

While at Amherst, Deirdre majored in Psychology and played both basketball and field hockey. She has completed her Masters in Education from UMass/Boston, as well as a Reading Specialist Program via Salem State College. She has invested personal and professional energy exploring the benefits of mindfulness on the learning conditions of her scholars. Deirdre completed the CARE (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education) Program at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY. She has also led district-wide professional development on mindfulness and classroom-based yoga practices for peer teachers. Deirdre strives to teach in a way that honors the full complexity and tenderness of the human condition of her scholars.

Debbie Newmark ’19 is a Dual Language Kindergarten teacher at Harrington Elementary School in Lynn, MA. She teaches her 25 students an integrated, thematic, and standards-based Kindergarten curriculum entirely in Spanish. Debbie is drawn to Dual Language pedagogies because she is passionate about all families having a voice in their childrens’ education, despite their native languages and predominantly undocumented legal statuses. Additionally, Debbie mentors aspiring teachers at Lynn Tech and is on the district team to select a new, equitable early childhood screener.

At Amherst, Debbie graduated Magna Cum Laude and received her Bachelor of Arts in American Studies. She was fascinated by the rich and nuanced history of Latinx migrants, and in her honors thesis research, Debbie examined the migratory patterns of Latinx individuals who traveled to rural destinations within a neoliberal timeframe. Debbie credits Amherst with encouraging her to think critically, which has enabled her to use a dynamic approach to teaching. In her classroom, she seeks to create an inclusive and joyful learning environment where students feel proud of and empowered by their diverse and multicultural backgrounds. She is passionate about Spanish literacy as the foundation for bilingualism and biliteracy for all students, regardless of their home language. 

Outside the classroom, Debbie loves distance running (and is running the Boston Marathon next week!), baking sourdough bread and learning the ukulele. Her dog, Zeke, is the proud, official mascot of her Kindergarten classroom.

David Zheutlin ’11 spends much of his time these days in the garden, learning alongside Brooklyn students, enlivening empty spaces with fresh vegetables and sturdy wildflowers. Since 2019, he’s directed the education programs at Brooklyn Youth Sports Club while teaching Environmental Studies to 11th and 12th graders part-time at Trevor Day in Manhattan, NY. This year, David plans to expand the outdoor education endeavors with another empty-lot student garden and a few more tree-side flowerbeds on Bushwick sidewalks.

The garden on New Lots Avenue is a learning space for students ages 8-14, a training place for young teachers, and a community workshop for several local organizations. There’s also plenty of delicious produce for everyone to enjoy later and later into the season, these days – peppers were still kickin’ into November last year. If you’re in town, you might find David biking around the neighborhood, using his old car as a locker for compost and seedlings, or passing wild-looking tomatoes over a fence to local passersby.