Student Spotlight: Max Amend


Max Amend

UTEC Student Max Amend

Year: Sophomore

Cohort: 2027

Credential: Single Subject English

Major: English

Minor: Public Service and Community Engagement

Program: 4+1 Dual Degree

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Question: What inspired you to become a teacher?

Max: It’s always been a part of me. I remember being in second grade and learning my times tables, and I’d go home and teach my mom the times tables and draw out different things and stuff like that. So it’s always been a big part of who I am—to share, impart knowledge. I think that the shift [to teaching] came when I got the email from UTEC. I was very undecided going into college. I thought about teaching a couple of times. I’d always thought, Oh, I want to do public policy or something policy related. And then I realized I really like this education thing. I have this interest, so maybe there’s a way that I can bridge the two. I then got the UTEC email and took a job teaching that summer for the first time as a teaching assistant. I was a teaching assistant for a couple of classes in high school, but I didn’t [initially] think of it as something I would do. Then I got into it and jumped in. Recently I’ve read a lot of literature and take the classes and get in the classroom. I love it.

Question: You’re currently in Washington DC for the Public Service and Community Engagement minor. Tell me about your experience and how it has intersected with education, if at all.

Max: I really wanted to explore education policy. I struggled a little bit because I had never really taken any politics classes. I hadn’t been doing the traditional interning in the district office of my congressperson or interning somewhere in the city of San Francisco. So I didn’t really come in with a lot of experience, and that made finding an internship rather hard at the beginning. I shifted from being on the hill—working in the House or the Senate—to asking myself what are other ways that I can work in policy? I work at the National Coalition for School Diversity now. It’s an issue that was a little foreign to me. I wasn’t very well versed in the school integration movement or what current work is being done, what grant programs are being issued from the Department of Education, etc.

So it’s been a huge learning curve coming here, but it’s also very relevant work. One of the districts that my organization and the school integration movement focuses on is Oakland Unified School District. So there is kind of a home tie in that sense. It’s also been great because I can tie some of the pedagogical practices we discuss in my UTEC and School of Ed classes to understand the teacher perspective of things from the policy side, especially when it comes to making students feel included in class spaces and feel that they belong within an environment, and the whole idea of desegregating on multiple fronts, socioeconomically as well as racially. I now have a much bigger, better understanding about the school integration movement and the work that’s being done.

I now get to work with people on the hill through my job here. I’ll go to a Senate briefing or I’ll run a Senate briefing or something like that. I get to see the Hill in session as well as work with others like think tank organizations and nonprofits. I get to do everything because the National Coalition on School Diversity is the school integration movement’s hub. It connects everybody from professors and educators to the organizations and lobbyists to those in government who are pushing for these issues.

Question: What does a typical day look like for you when you’re doing your internship?

Max: I usually get in the office around 9 a.m. I love public transportation, so I could take a very nice metro ride and be pretty close, but I do sit in my office for 90% of my day, so I like to walk. I walk about a mile to work every day. It’s really cool because I get to pass the White House. Meetings don’t start until ten so I usually read news digests that come via email. I’m very well versed on the news. If there’s a Supreme Court hearing or something, I’ll listen to that or listen to a vote on the floor.

On certain days we have team meetings, so I go to that. After that, I divide my day up and it’s usually reading grants from the Department of Ed and pulling things that meet school integration criteria. We’re trying to figure out as an organization which grantees have been awarded money from the Department of Ed and are good programs. We can then send the information to representatives on the Hill and be like, hey, use this as an example to try to get more funding. There’s a grant that I’ve been looking at called the Fostering Diverse Schools grant—Oakland Unified received this—which ranges from planning to foster more school integration programs to implementation.

In the afternoons we’re planning the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. I’ve been doing a lot of reading around that and pulling quotations for a huge gala on May 2nd. Other tasks might be our Comms Director sending a thing out and asking me to read a paper to create some social media posts. What’s the key argument? Pull some quotations, draft a little post or something like that. We’re featuring Pauli Murray, who was key to the Brown v. Board of Education case behind the scenes, but gets little credit. Our organization is trying to lobby to get her a place at the African American History and Culture Museum here in DC. She just got a coin from the US mint.

I guess the other thing that I do a lot of is speech prep for the directors. I draft the talking points. A lot of school integration is attorney theories. When you go to these conferences, a lot of the time it’s a lot of different people offering different theories and then working together to find what works.

Question: How do you see your interest in getting a Single Subject English credential intersecting with your current work?

Max: I love my English major and I’m never changing that. I like USF’s Public Service and Community Engagement minor, though it’s more focused on the community engagement side rather than the policy side. I really like English because it’s given me the tools to think very critically. I’m able to interpret literature, whether that’s an actual book or someone’s email or someone’s argument or someone’s oral argument or someone’s speech on the floor. Here in politics, though, they write very differently than we do in the English major. So you kind of have to cut the BS. It’s just like “He spent X amount of money” and there’s nothing else, it’s just strictly fact. I’d never written a memo when I came to DC. So I’ve gotten very good at writing a very concise policy memo or a decision memo. But I’m a huge English major fan. It really sets you up for a lot of success. I think it just has a lot of breadth, it can be applied to many different things. I think that there is a lot of room within the political lens and landscape for different backgrounds to come in and utilize their unique skills, and I think [an English background] does set you apart from the average DC person when you come in with a different lens.

Question: To switch to the teaching side, are you doing any teaching during the semester or this summer?

Max: There is a high school here and technically I am a substitute teacher, but I have not gone because my schedule is kind of crazy. I’m taking a research methods class and I’m doing mine on mindsets in education, mainly on AI. I’ve been engaging with a lot of students that way. I’m trying to figure out the moment in which a student is doing their work and then they shift to, “I need AI.” I’m trying to figure out what’s the motivating factor. It’s fascinating to me. I’ll talk to a kid who’s doing AP physics homework or something, and he’ll be like, yeah, I’m just going through my problem sets. And I say, okay, so you have teacher notes, you have class slides, you have the textbook. Why ChatGPT? And you really drill into it. And the student says, “Because it gives me the problem backwards and it helps me out.” Or other students state they don’t have a big enough vocabulary, so they use ChatGPT to sound like a senior in high school.

I’m writing an op-ed on this. Instead of trying to police AI, I ask that educators talk to the kids. The kids will know. I’ve also been working with a lot of researchers who are into AI education. I am teaching a class on AI ethics this summer. I’m teaching six classes this summer in total: I’m teaching two periods of high school English called Reading/Writing Workshop. Then I’m teaching AI ethics for middle schoolers for the first three weeks and the second three weeks for high schoolers. I’ll be teaching at Bellarmine down in the South Bay. I had a really great interview and got that job mainly because of my [experience in UTEC’s undergraduate fieldwork] at USF. That is the only reason I got the job. In the interview they they made me walk through the lesson from the the moment the students walk in the door. I nailed it, it was great.

Question: What do you want to make sure students experience in your class, regardless of what the content is?

Max: We’ve made school more like a chore and not about the learning. I want students to understand why we learn and have them want to learn. I’m so into mindsets—I had a realization as a freshman in high school when I got a C on my first English paper. I said to myself, I don’t want to ever get a C on a paper again. So I went to my English teacher and asked them to teach me how to write an a paper. But as a teacher, most students don’t do that. If they get an A on the paper, they see the feedback, but they kind of ignore it. If they get anything less than a top grade, they don’t see [constructive] feedback, they see a criticism from the instructor. I really want to be able to shift that. I understand that it’s hard. I’ll be taking a class and I see myself falling into the trap of, Oh, it’s not 100%. You have to think, it’s not that I didn’t do well. I did well, but there’s room for improvement.

In SFUSD I realized that for some of these kids going to high school, they’d be at a huge disadvantage because there are other schools that are pushed further along in the curriculum. Every school is at a different place. And so my summer class this year will be a level playing field. There will be no grades in that class. It will simply be graded on feedback because at that point they don’t need it for credit. So that’s one thing. I really want to shift from learning for the grade to learning for feedback and learning for learning’s sake. That’s what I want to do.

I also really want a safe, fun, learning environment for student questions. That’s 100% a reflection of teachers. In my observation, you give back the test, you give the feedback, and the student feels disconnected from the class or disconnected from the teacher because of the feedback they got. And maybe it’s because they had a bad day and they’re the ones who got the bad grade, and it’s 100% their fault. And maybe it’s because you’ve let them down as a teacher. But regardless, I want students to feel, Mr. Amend is here to help you learn and how to achieve some form of mastery, or even just further move up the ladder a notch towards competence in writing.

Question: What are some of your interests outside of teaching?

Max: I run a lot. I like to listen to music. I paint. It’s very meditative. We have the Cherry Blossom Festival this whole week, so I’ve been painting cherry blossoms. This sounds so nerdy, but honestly, I love making curriculum. I’ll be sitting down reading and think of something for my kids. I read a lot. I have dedicated times where I’m reading the news. And then there’s other times where I’ll be reading academically or reading English literature, where you can get get lost in a book, but I’m not reading it for a class or a grade. So that’s a lot of fun. Right now I’m reading a book called The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults. It is fantastic. I am about 43 pages in. I highly recommend it.

TED talks are my new thing, where I’ll try to listen to one a day. That and I have a couple of podcasts I listed to. I’ll go hit the treadmill and pop on a podcast for an hour or so. I take in a lot of knowledge.

I also love being outdoors. It’s so sunny today. The eclipse is coming out, so I’m going to go walk the mall. I love being outside and love being active.