Amanda Hill-Hennie, Ed.D. is a relentless advocate for educational equity. After spending many years teaching, developing teachers, and leading schools, she decided to found a social impact organization, called “Our Concrete Roses.” She is passionate and successful in supporting educational leaders and classroom teachers to close the opportunity gap that continues to harm Black and Brown students. systems-level thinking .
Dr. Amanda discusses her impact area
I have worked in the education sector for over 15 years serving in various capacities, from classroom teacher to school administrator to central office leadership. In each of those roles, the one constant factor was my ability to improve student outcomes for historically marginalized learners. Given the challenges that many university, school, and systems leaders face in developing educators to improve outcomes for historically marginalized learners, I was eager to seek solutions. I began facilitating empathy interviews and conducting research to develop a prototype for a novel approach that addressed the adaptive challenges prohibiting university, school, and systems leaders from advancing educational equity. I found opportunities in my positions as a school leader and adjunct professor to test out some of these theories and practices.
This work resulted in students’ growth measures exceeding the growth averages for the state, students growth measures exceeded the growth averages of the schools within the network, The percentage of English Learner’s scoring proficient doubling in multiple subjects, Our Black, Hispanic, and English Learner students exceeding their growth goal by almost twenty percentage points, and the number of teachers within our school whose students demonstrated significant evidence of exceeding the growth standard increased by 40 percentage points. Additionally, there was a 30% increase in the number of preservice teachers who felt more comfortable in their ability to implement specific culturally responsive teaching competencies at the conclusion of the course.
I am now the proud founder of a social impact organization called Our Concrete Roses. Our mission is to address educational inequity by partnering with various stakeholders to ensure that educators and education leaders are equipped to operationalize culturally responsive teaching competencies to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of Black and Latinx students in educational institutions across the nation. Our vision is to cultivate culturally relevant educators to lead districts, schools, classrooms, principal preparation programs, and teacher preparation programs in the execution and scale of culturally responsive teaching competencies, which will alleviate the opportunity gap pervading Black and Latinx students.
We specialize in supporting schools, districts, principal preparation program providers, and teacher preparation program providers in fulfilling culturally responsive teaching. What that means is that we provide extensive professional learning designed to reach the heart and transform the mind. We engage partners in the principles of design thinking to create coaching experiences where they learn actionable strategies to provide equitable learning environments for Black and Brown students. The efficacy of our work is measured through traditional tools such as student assessment data, teacher observation protocols, and staff surveys. Our unique way that we measure our efficacy is through student survey data as well. We seek to find out if our work impacts the sense of belonging that students’ feel, the quality of relationships students have with their teachers, the value of what they are learning in their classrooms and other key factors that promote educational equity.
She shares her favorite lesson from convening
A favorite lesson for me was the session on design thinking during the CSIS Convening that was held in-person on UPenn’s campus. This session provided me with a new perspective on solving complex challenges and a way to engage all stakeholders in a collaborative approach to designing solutions to these challenges. The design thinking session was led by Dr.Ariel Schwartz and she provided many tools to help us deliver our own design thinking sessions and customize the tools to support our specific context. It also ensured that our approach to innovating for social change honors the voices of the community and avoids any “savior” approaches to innovation. This approach resonated with me because too often students of historically marginalized backgrounds are subject to being “fixed” by individuals who are not from their communities and who do not seek out the input of people affected by the challenges. When I engaged in empathy interviews with stakeholders, my approach to addressing the challenge of educational equity shifted drastically.
Advice for future applicants
I would say that future applicants should have a specific venture or project in mind when applying for this program because you will be provided with tools and resources that you can immediately apply and there are renowned experts in the field that can answer specific questions you may have. I would also recommend attending the Weekly Jamout Sessions to get even more clarity on the module content.
Thanks Dr. Amanda! Follow our page to hear from more brilliant Changemakers. Looking to learn more about our Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy(SIS)? Sign up for our summer information sessions or watch previous recordings from last year.
SIS graduates are eligible to apply to the Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) in an accelerated, on-campus, or online format. The NPL program is a ten-credit master’s program; SIS Alumni must complete six credits to graduate.
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