Making History: How a “Problem Student” Became an Inspiring Teacher

Sandy Amos (left) and his student at June Jordan School for Equity

“I wanted to be the sort of teacher that I didn’t have growing up.”


Sandy teaches literature at June Jordan School for Equity, a public high school in San Francisco, California.”Growing up in Washington DC, I was the sort of student that frustrated my teachers because it was obvious that I was very intelligent but I didn’t buy into the system. I was never really very motivated at school because I felt the content was disconnected from my life and irrelevant to my lived experiences.

I was inspired to become a teacher because I wanted to be the sort of teacher that I didn’t have growing up. I wanted to have a classroom that reflected and celebrated the lived experience of my students and helped them better understand the world they live in.

I’m currently in my fifth year of teaching. I’ve taught for four years at June Jordan School for Equity, a small public high school in San Francisco. Our school focuses on social justice as the guiding theme of our curriculum. My students are largely poor and working class students of color, which is a shrinking demographic in the rapidly gentrifying San Francisco Bay Area.

sandy-and-studentWhen I heard about Voice of Witness as a student teacher, I knew very quickly that this was the sort of work that I wanted to do in my own classroom. I was instantly impressed by how engaged the students were in reading the narratives of people who had been impacted by issues like gentrification and discrimination.

These oral history narratives provide my students a window to the larger world that validates their own life experiences.

They relate to these stories on both a personal and intellectual level that more traditional literary texts often fail to reach.

The Voice of Witness books are now a cornerstone of my curriculum.

These stories help students become powerful agents for creating social justice and community change.”

Our sliding scale fee for service allows us to support schools like June Jordan School for Equity with free curricula and books, on-site oral history workshops, and training opportunities for educators—all of which is made possible thanks to supporters like you.

Will you help keep these crucial resources affordable
for teachers at under-resourced schools?


Help us raise $50,000 for the VOW Education Program by December 31, 2016.
Make a gift to the Make History Campaign today.

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