Erica Foley

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Erica grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut.  She always wanted to be a math teacher, even back to when she was 5 trying to teach her 3 year old brother how to write numbers (it didn’t go great).  But ever since then, she has been thrilled by the beauty of math and learning. For part of high school, she attended an all-girls high school where she saw women pursuing math and science to the highest levels and started to understand more the ways that our identities affect how we see ourselves in schools.  She explored these ideas further at Hampshire College, where she studied math, education, gender studies, and critical race theory. She also spent much of her time in classrooms, observing and assisting in math from grades 2-12. Her senior thesis incorporated research on stereotype threat and disparities in math achievement as well as student teaching.  At Hampshire, she also experienced radically different methods of student-driven learning and alternative student evaluation systems, which opened her mind to new ways of seeing school.

 

After graduating, Erica immediately launched herself into teaching 7th and 8th grade math at an arts charter school for 5 years.  She utilized competency-based grading and arts integration to improve math instruction. She was also chosen to chair the school’s strategic action plan writing committee, where she gathered input from students, families, faculty, administrators, alumni, led a collaborative writing process with her committee, and was lead-editor on a guiding document for the school’s next five years.  Erica was also highly involved with the school’s school climate team and trauma sensitive school initiative, building on her passion for healing-centered, empowerment-based learning.

 

Erica sees math education as a crucial tool for social change.  Firstly, access to high-quality math education gives young people access to so many opportunities that they might otherwise lose out on.  Math achievement is in itself a social justice issue. Secondly, our world is so strongly driven by data, but often data is gathered or used in biased ways.  Erica saw this most clearly when redesigning a data unit, she was looking for data on police violence that her students could analyze since her students were so invested in this and aware of recent events.  She worked with the school librarian to try and find a government database of statistics and they realized that data is not kept. She realized that teaching our young people to understand, question, and gather their own data is an essential tool to dismantle systems of injustice in our world.

 

Erica is currently studying instructional leadership at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.  Her focus is on the way that educators and leaders can be drivers for change toward educational and social justice.

 

 

erica@redesignu.org