Educational Leadership for Change '20
I feel a certain esteem saying that I’ve graduated from Bank Street. And when I meet others who have graduated from Bank Street, we tend to fall into conversation because there’s a shared educational philosophy.
Amber Cartwright is the vice president of Teaching Matters, leading their K-12 division and providing support to the teacher workforce through recruiting, mentorship, and coaching.
With a master’s degree in psychology from City College of New York, Amber chose to pursue a career in educational leadership. Early on, she volunteered to open a family child care center at a friend’s home and she worked at summer camps and as a substitute teacher in Universal Pre-K and Pre-K For All. As her experience grew, she eventually launched the Woodside New York Head Start program—initially as a volunteer. This unusual trajectory eventually aligned with the desire to further her education and take on greater leadership roles.
At the urging of her former mentor who was a Bank Street alumnus, she attended a Bank Street Open House. Amber’s mother, who taught elementary and high school students for 45 years, also suggested that Bank Street would be a good investment. The signs were all there, and it didn’t take Amber long to realize that Bank Street was the right place for her to start her career as an educational leader.
“I went to the Open House and I was blown away. I come from a long line of educators going back to my great, great grandfather who had opened a one-room schoolhouse in Texas. I’ve always wanted to be of service for the purpose of children and families.” Amber said.
After completing the Early Childhood Education and Leadership Program in 2006, she returned to Bank Street in 2020 for her School Building Leader (SBL) and School District Leadership (SDL) advanced certifications. Amber realized that the friendships she had established in her cohort at Bank Street have remained a source of professional camaraderie she can turn to for advice and community.
“Bank Street has provided me with a solid foundation in progressive education, and it has also influenced who I’ve become, both as a professional and a human being. Throughout my formative years, I never really felt like I belonged and I often felt overlooked, if seen at all. I feel a certain esteem saying that I’ve graduated from Bank Street. And when I meet others who have graduated from Bank Street, we tend to fall into conversation because there’s a shared educational philosophy,” Amber said.
Her drive to be a leader for change led her to sharpen her leadership abilities with credentials from the UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Johnson & Johnson Head Start Management Fellows Program. Networking has also played a role in landing many executive management positions. She has served as the executive director of family empowerment and community partnership and director of professional learning, policy and implementation at the New York City Department of Education, where she advised senior leadership. Along her professional path, she has also served as director of curriculum and instruction at Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, director of early childhood education programs at Phipps Community Development Corporation, assistant director for the Early Head Start program at the Child Center of New York, and director of Harlem Children’s Zone Harlem Gems Preschool.
“Networking through Bank Street has definitely been a benefit. I think that I’ve also grown a lot as a person throughout my grad school experience. I have had the good fortune of meeting people and being sought after for help. My career story has been bolstered by people wanting to make an investment in me, and my willingness to help my friends and colleagues with whatever program challenges they may face had led me forward.”
Amber is also an active Bank Street alumna who serves on the 2023 BSCAA Awards Advisory Committee.
“The Bank Street community—my cohort in particular—and a lot of the courses I had were unlike what I had experienced prior. What I learned at Bank Street has changed me on a professional and personal level, and I’m proud of the work I am able to do. It has shaped who I am as a leader. That’s why I stay connected.”