Preparing socially conscious lifelong learners
In the 10 years since graduating from Binghamton University, Jay Samant, MSEd ’11, has moved across the country teaching special education.
At Binghamton, Samant was treasurer of the Professional Education Graduate Organization, where he began to identify his leadership potential. He was a student teacher at Johnson City Middle School and Binghamton High School, and after earning his master’s degree, he worked as a high school special education teacher in Virginia, where he was awarded Teacher of the Year at Phoebus High School in 2014.
In 2016, opportunity struck, and Samant moved from Virginia to Colorado to become founding assistant principal of instruction at STRIVE Prep-RISE High School in Denver. There, he coaches teachers and encourages professional development using evidence-based instructional practices. He accommodates students and supports teachers in providing for their students’ social and emotional needs.
Samant says it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to open a high school, especially one like STRIVE Prep-RISE, which emphasizes social justice.
“I think it’s really important to empower young minds and young individuals to tackle problems and have the tools to do so,” Samant says. “We want to prepare our students to be lifelong learners, but to also have practical experiences with different social justice causes they’re passionate about that are also trending in our country. During the second semester every year, we have a week without traditional classes, and we’ll cover a specific social justice topic.”
The school has covered issues including immigration and mass incarceration in the past, and most recently focused on gender inequities and the LGBTQ+ community. Although Samant has been working virtually for the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he credits Binghamton with teaching him how to address problems as they arise in the ever-changing world of education.
“The master’s in special education had a rigorous curriculum and was practice-based,” Samant says. “My professors had been special education teachers or had worked in special education administration. So, instead of just learning about the theoretical frameworks, we got hands-on case studies they were able to provide to us, and they talked about how they were able to handle those situations.”