Ashira Greene ’07, Training and Quality Assurance Associate at the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Ashira Greene ’07

I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, and returned to Washington in 2015, after spending time in Pittsburgh for a Master’s in Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University; Singapore as an English teacher at the Lycée Français de Singapour, and London as a doctoral researcher in Education at University College London.

At Wellesley, I majored in English, and my parents encouraged me to complete the Teacher Certification program so that I would always have a fall-back career (though I didn’t exactly have a fall-forward career—I had lived in Romania as a child and wanted to find a way to live internationally again in some capacity, but wasn’t sure what shape that would take). This was the best advice I was given during my college years, as I discovered that I loved the dynamism of a classroom. As a Sociology minor, I found group interactions and identity presentation fascinating, so teaching was gratifying on multiple levels. I was given the opportunity to student teach in both 6th and 7th grade at T.A. Blake Middle School in Medfield, MA, and my favorite part of that experience was creating poetry units for each grade.

When I moved to Singapore to join my family after my Master’s degree, I held short-term employment as an educational consultant facilitating performance poetry and public speaking courses, as well as teaching adults at a language center, before being offered a position as a middle and high school English teacher at the Lycée Français de Singapour. In that role, I was expected to create my own courses using literature as the foundation.

After having the opportunity to construct courses during my student teaching and creating educational materials as a consultant, I enjoyed the creativity of developing syllabi. To gain additional experience in the summers, I proactively sought out professional development courses, including a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate and Advanced Placement English Language and Composition. With the eventual goal of getting my doctorate in Education, it was during this period as a teacher when I began to question how non-native teachers of English felt about using literature in their courses, and what literature they chose to teach. These questions became the foundation of my doctorate at University College London, which I completed in November 2017.

At the tail end of my doctorate, I had three formative experiences: developing language proficiency examinations at the Center for Applied Linguistics, constructing writing lessons for an e-learning platform with ThinkCERCA, and drafting training materials at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). These roles combined my tenure as a teacher with the understanding I gained during my doctorate.

What do you wish you had known as a student? How has your career changed since you originally envisioned it at Wellesley?
I wish I had a better understanding as a student of how exciting educational technology could be, and how much it would impact the classroom. I took CS110 at Wellesley, but did not see how it could support my future work, as I had no intention of becoming a programmer. For the past year, however, I have evaluated online training courses, constructed e-learning courses, and developed user documentation for Salesforce—and it has been more enjoyable than I could have imagined. There are certain software packages that it would be helpful to have facility with, but the majority of my technological learning has come firsthand on the job.

What other careers did you consider as a student?
I entertained the idea of becoming a sociologist and professional writer, and I think in some ways I have fulfilled these dreams indirectly. I also thought about becoming a cultural attaché with the US Department of State.

What is a typical work day or work week like for you?
During the workday, I develop training materials such as articles and video scripts for the team at AAAS. At least two evenings per week, I work on consulting projects for ThinkCERCA, structuring lessons on a variety of Language Arts topics for students in grades 6 through 12.

What advice would you offer students and alumnae looking to get into your area of interest and expertise?
It is critical to gain a few years of experience in a classroom for two main reasons: one, as you become a more experienced teacher, you will be given more freedom in constructing your courses; and two, you need exposure to curriculum standards, as curriculum development often involves alignment with state or national standards. It is critical to be able to demonstrate knowledge of your discipline and an understanding of students in order to create lessons which are coherent and substantive without being overwhelming.

Regarding helpful/informative resources for those interested in curriculum development, what are the websites, organizations, publications would recommend?
If you want to explore teaching domestically in the United States at the secondary level, you should become aware of the College Board, which validates Advanced Placement courses. At any level, the Common Core State Standards will be relevant. If you have an interest in teaching either domestically or internationally, look for employment with a school that has the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

In terms of finding employment, I would recommend registering with Carney, Sandoe & Associates, as they work with a range of charter, independent, and international schools. I would also recommend looking on EdSurge, which has a free job listing with a range of educational jobs encompassing classroom teaching, curriculum development, and leadership.