Amy Buchanan Receives 2013 Dr. Carter G. Woodson Award
Alden Terrace Principal Amy Buchanan received the prestigious Dr. Carter G. Woodson Award at the Tenth Anniversary Black History Month Celebration sponsored by Elmont Online and Highlighting Success, Inc. Throughout her professional career, Buchanan continually stepped out of the shadows of Dr. Woodson to embrace the significance of recorded history, the telling of “the story,” and to promote education as a pathway to an enriching future.
A graduate of New York University with a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism, Buchanan interned with New York television news anchorman and senior correspondent, John Johnson, a prominent African-American journalist and a fixture in the metropolitan area media industry. While she learned the process of selecting stories, organizing field work, editing and producing, she also learned from Johnson that people are what make the story. She saw and felt his empathy and compassion for the subject whose story he would reveal to the public.
“The story helps people make more meaning out of their lives,” notes Buchanan. “Hearing any story, particularly one of heartache and challenge, is valuable because it helps people reexamine their lives, their choices, their decisions, and shows them that their own setbacks may be someone else’s trauma.”
Buchanan went on to become a regional manager with RKO Radio Network, traveling from state to state and negotiating network contracts. But after she married and became a mom, life changed, and she sought a career that would allow her to be closer to home.
To prepare for a switch in careers from broadcasting to education, Buchanan pursued a Master’s degree in Elementary Education at Cambridge College. She was well prepared for this new role, having come from a long line of teachers in her family (her mom, aunts and grandmother). She began as a substitute teacher in District 27, largely the Jamaica Estates section of Queens, before receiving an appointment as a full-time fifth grade teacher in District 29 in Arverne, a Queens’ neighborhood on the Rockaway Peninsula.
In 1993, Buchanan joined the Elmont Union Free School District, teaching kindergarten at Dutch Broadway School. A year later, she moved to sixth grade, and then, encouraged by her colleagues, she accepted the appointment as Assistant Principal. Again, she went back to school to receive an Advanced Certificate in School/District Administration from Hofstra University. In 2000, she was tapped to become the Principal of Alden Terrace School, a position she viewed as a new and challenging opportunity that would allow her to see school from a different perspective and impact even more children.
At the presentation of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Award on February 2, Elmont Elementary Schools Superintendent Al Harper called Buchanan “an outstanding educator,” and “an inspiration.” He said, “She guides with her heart. She’s always there.”
When she taught in the classroom, Buchanan modeled her interaction with students on a family concept, and taught the children that respect is paramount—respect for other’s ideas, cultures and viewpoints. Additionally, she would tell the students that when they apply for a job, the employer isn’t going to ask what mark they got on the fifth grade spelling test. Instead, she said, “They want to know that you are reliable, responsible, a team player, and understand responsibility for yourself as well as for others.” Buchanan is proud that many of her students went on to do great things, like State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, and others who became doctors and psychologists.
A self-described “people-lover,” as Principal, Buchanan strives to develop a shared vision with parents, faculty, staff and students to manifest a learning environment based on three principles: Excellence—giving 100% to what one is doing at any given time in life; Equity—knowing that one can do whatever it is they choose to do if their mind is set and they have a purpose; and Compassion—doing whatever you do with love.
“You must teach with love,” says Buchanan. “Children can sense the lack of it. These are our adults of tomorrow, the problem solvers of tomorrow. They must understand how important respect, love and compassion are in living with others.”
Buchanan also believes in the strength of the collective. Recalling the saying that a group is only as strong as the weakest member, she says that on the contrary, she believes the strongest members of any culture, race or society can improve everyone, and that reaching forward to help those that need it should be everyone’s mission, not only within a certain culture or race, but among cultures, societies and races.
“When my time is done, I will be judged not by how much I accumulated or how much I was recognized or honored, but did I help people change their lives for the better…even if it’s one person, two people,” remarks Buchanan. She quotes writer/professor Neil Postman: Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. “What I would want people to know about me is that I taught with love.” This, she says, is her vision for an educator.
Professionally, Buchanan is a member of Phi Delta Kappa, the Long Island Association for Curriculum Development, and the National Association of elementary Principals.
The child of parents who were born and raised in Harlem, Buchanan grew up in Queens and Long Island. She was influenced most by her mom and grandmother, who she says, were both strong black women who taught her one word…perseverance.
Motivated by “her children,” Buchanan says that when she looks for a distraction from the intricacies of her job, she gets out of her seat in the principal’s office and goes into a classroom. “That’s where the action is,” she states.
Buchanan and her husband Byron live in West Hempstead and have one son, Justin. When she’s not working on behalf of the Alden Terrace “family” and the children of the Elmont School District, she enjoys shell seeking and collecting, as well as gardening and spending time with her family.
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