Pro Teachers, Pro Students: Education reforms in New York State, from the viewpoint of a new teacher

In virtually every pageant interview I’ve been in, I get asked the same question; why teaching? And my answer is always the same. My mom is a teacher. Growing up, I always went to her classroom over the summer to help her set it up for the school year. I always dreamed of having a classroom of my own, to help others succeed.

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In the last few years, however, I haven’t been as enthusiastic about going up. Mostly because of how few jobs there are and how downhill education has been going. Now I just get depressed. 1. because I know I’m not getting my own classroom anytime soon and 2. I would probably be fired right away anyway.

I became certified in February 2013. I graduated undergrad in childhood education in 3 and half years, and finished my Masters in curriculum and instruction in a year and a half, giving me five total years of college. I immediately started subbing, and in November 2013, I luckily landed a short term leave that resulted in me being a permanent sub in 6th grade math at Cohoes Middle School, where I remained a whole year until I became a teaching assistant for 4th grade at Ichabod Crane Elementary School this past December.

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Education has been going downhill ever since I was in college, but not as much as it has been recently. For some reason, the current Governor hates public education, and is doing whatever he can to eliminate teachers.

I have never felt more discouraged or wanting to change my career more than I have in these last few months. I never once thought I would regret going into teaching, but our governor has changed that. The things he is proposing is a set up that will automatically fail everyone, both teachers and students. Raising the bar is one thing, but making it so high that it’s nearly impossible is downright cruel.

Students are being asked to take tests that include content way above their grade level. Reading passages for 4th graders are at a 7th grade reading level, 7th grade at an 11th grade reading level. Math questions that don’t really ask a question but rather try and trick you instead. Opting children out of tests is a growing reform given what is happening. While I will not comment one way or another, here are some reasons why a parent might;

opt out

Teacher evaluation plans base 50 percent of a teachers score on these tests, making it nearly impossible to get into the “effective” range. I have already accepted that if I ever finally get my own classroom, I will never have tenure, because there is no way I will get “effective” four consecutive years with these standardized tests.

This isn’t about teachers wanting to “save ourselves.” The media does a really good job of making it seem one sided. Our job is only part of the issue. We want what’s best for our children. All my life all I’ve wanted to do is help, teach, and inspire children, which I cannot do if I’m 1.forced to teach to a test and 2. fired in two years when children fail these tests. Yes, if you’re deemed ineffective two years in a row, you can be fired within 30 days. Went to school for five years only to be fired in two. Funny.

There is nothing I enjoy more than working with struggling students and finally seeing the lightbulb go off when they finally understand something that once challenged them, or students getting excited about a subject. The shift I’ve seen from student teaching to the present is students that get to do fun projects and learn with various methods of instruction, to now students that hate school and cry because the material is too difficult.

This is why I advocate pro teachers, pro students. This is why we need change. Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or just a citizen of New York State. I urge you to keep yourself educated and informed about the truth of what is happening in this state.

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Growing up is hard to do

Wondering where I should even begin with this post. It’s all of my thoughts just thrown out there so I apologize if it jumps back and forth.

My first experience with anything “contest” related was when I was nominated for Irish Queen senior year of high school. It was supposed to be the guys and girls in each class that exemplified Irish spirit, but of course it was really just a popularity contest. I know that I wasn’t nominated by my class and that it was my teacher who did it, seeing as I had written to a famous Irish author and had gotten a reply. I knew I wasn’t going to win queen or even be a princess, but it was fun to be recognized.

I was never popular in high school. I had friends, but I spent many years getting bullied by “popular” kids and those I played sports with. Junior year was probably the worst. I wonder if maybe I started competing because I wanted to prove myself, or make a point that I could do something. Or that I had what it took to be pretty. Whatever it was, I wanted to change myself.

senior year. what's makeup?

senior year. what’s makeup? what’s jewelry?

Fast forward to when I signed up for my first pageant in August 2011, and that was Miss New York USA. I had no idea what I was doing; no idea how to walk, use makeup, etc. I’m pretty sure I was the only contestant that did not have fake eyelashes, really because I had never heard of them before. I went dress shopping and bought the first dress I saw, a prom gown that was so not pageant material. But, I still had a blast on that stage. I was hooked on the pageant bug and have been competing ever since.

Miss NYUSA 2012

Miss NYUSA 2012

In my 4 years competing, I’ve competed in NYUSA twice, NY International, NY US International, International Junior Miss, American Nation, and various Miss America locals. Each of these experiences has shaped me into the person I am today, whether it was good or bad. I’ve seen the best of people and the worst of people, been talked bad about behind my back, and built a backbone. But regardless have met some of the greatest people and learned to network and be a better person. I started pageants a size 8 (thanks to the freshman 15), and worked my way to a healthy and fit size 2. I can style myself now and actually can curl my hair. (its the little things…)

September 2010 at my heaviest and August 2013 after starting to eat right and exercise more

September 2010 at my heaviest and August 2013 after starting to eat right and exercise more

As I grow older, I’m finding that continuing to compete in the “big name” pageants is harder to do. Both because of time and also cost. I’m learning that I need to start prioritizing my life, and now that I’m paying for student loans, saving for a car, etc and I have a contracted job in the field of education, that realistically I just can’t compete in USA or Intl, both because of cost and also because I wouldn’t be able to travel to national pageants.

I just finished competing in my last Miss America local pageant, which was extremely bittersweet. I always say this system got away from me because talent was always my struggle, and I know I would’ve done better had I done violin the whole time. But, such is life. I will say though that my final performance in a MAO local was the best ever. I literally could not have done better for myself. My talent was the best it was all season (playing a violin that wasn’t my own) finally sounding great and I actually smiled instead of giving the judges resting face. My interview was so great I walked out with happy tears. I am confused at how I didn’t place as a runner up this time, but different day, different judges. I know that I was the perfect version of Amanda I could be. I walked into yesterday’s pageant not trying to win, but just have fun and go out with a bang.

playing Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal"

playing Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”

I’ve done a lot of thinking recently about how to go on with my pageant future endeavors. A lot of people would say I waste my time competing or that I’ve wasted thousands of dollars competing when I have virtually nothing to show for it; one win and a few placements in my close to 20 competitions. But yet, when I look back on who I was before I started pageants, I know that the time and money was worth it given that I pushed my body to the limit to lose weight and tone up, plus gain confidence and poise. Winning doesn’t always mean walking away the day of the pageant with a crown.

Miss Empire Rose 2012. having no idea how walk. or pose. or anything...

Miss Empire Rose 2012. having no idea how walk. or pose. or anything…

Miss Hudson Valley 2014. finally learned how to walk, eat right, and pose.

Miss Hudson Valley 2014. finally learned how to walk, eat right, and pose.

So, where does that leave me? At this time, I won’t say that I’m retiring. However, I do think its time for a break. Focus on my career. If I do compete, it will be smaller, local pageants or state pageants where there’s no nationals or no pressure to commit to something else. Something where I can compete for the sake of getting on stage.

However, I do want to continue to make a difference in my community. I had looked into the World’s Tourism system a year ago but didn’t commit to it until recently when I did well in a photo pageant they were running. The result was me being given the New York title. With this system, there’s no pressure to attend nationals if you’re not able to, and they embrace ambassadors for their system. This system is a growing system with multiple age divisions, and at least 100 girls right now around the nation are Tourism girls making a difference. With this title, I will be able to continue my community service, giving back, making appearances, and working on my new platform of Pro Teachers, Pro Students.

excited to continue my charity work and really focus on my new education platform

excited to continue my charity work and really focus on my new education platform as World’s Miss New York Tourism 2015

I know some people may not agree with my decisions, or with at-large titles, but at the end of the day, I need to do what’s right for me. I appreciate all the support I’ve been given these last 4 years. I always say it’s not the title you have, but rather what you do with it. I will be looking at smaller pageants to do, and will be supporting local ones. I am already set to volunteer at next year’s Empire pageant. You can take the girl out of the pageant, but you can’t take the pageant out of the girl. Competing has absolutely changed my life for the better, and I can’t imagine doing anything else as a hobby.

"find what you love and do it"-Frank McCourt

“find what you love and do it”-Frank McCourt

-Amanda Daley

Priorities

I thought I had this pageant season all figured out. As my last year of eligibility, I was going to compete in every Miss America local I was able to do, with the hope that I could win the “name your own” title and be Miss Capital Region. I had a new talent I was happy with and excited for.

Unfortunately, none of this will be able to happen, and my dream of making the Miss New York stage as a local titleholder will fall short. I recently accepted a teaching position, which is extremely exciting and I so happy for this opportunity. But what comes with this new career is the responsibility and if I won a local title, I would not be able to take the time off needed to compete at the state level, because I can’t take a whole week off in May or June because of school. Although this is disappointing, my teaching career is the most important thing, so I must prioritize.

What’s next in my pageant future isn’t 100 percent right now, as I can’t compete in anything that will interfere with school, which leaves me with summer pageants. Thank you to everyone that has supported me up to this point. I appreciate it more than you know :) My time competing is definitely not over yet!

Miss American Nation 2015

What a weekend it has been at nationals. It was a weekend of laughs, tears (both happy and sad) and learning.

Friday:
Check in for the pageant was Thursday night, but due to a lot of different things, I came down Friday morning. I had to go to work quickly to set things up for the day, then went to the mall. I last minute decided to change my gown (again) and literally waited outside Macy’s until it opened. I then hit the road to Cromwell, CT and arrived at 12:30 in the afternoon, with just enough to grab some food and meet up with my friend and sister queen Mary before we started rehearsals. the rest of the night consisted of practicing our opening number dance, watching Miss teen USA preliminaries, and watching the big sister/little sister competition. although I have a little (Cayla) she was running late so we were unable to compete. It was a fun night to get the weekend started.

Saturday:
We were up way too early for a morning workout with Lori Ann from Bravo’s Game of Crowns.

lori ann

She literally kicked our butts. Although I appreciated the opportunity, this workout screwed me up for the rest of the weekend because I was extremely sore and it hurt to walk or move. We also had an interview prep seminar, then a long break before interview, where Mary and I just relaxed until her parents came up. we then had dinner with them and got ready for our interviews.

I actually had a very political interview; I was expecting more about me and my bio and was slightly thrown off by some of the questions, but I thought I answered them well. it was a 5 minute panel.

Questions in my interview;
-how do you feel about security in schools given Sandyhook?
-why should you be the national titleholder?
-what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
-if you could sit down with Obama for a few hours, what would you talk about?
-finish this sentence…love is _____
-how do you feel about school uniforms?
-do you value your American freedom?
-what would you change in education reforms?
-who inspires you most? (time ended so I didn’t answer this)

After my interview, we had a few more hours of rehearsal, and then tried to go to bed but we were too excited for Sunday.

Sunday:
Once again up very early to get ready and go to the black and gold breakfast.

my little sis, Cayla

We then headed into rehearsal and then got ready for finals. the day went by very fast! it was finally showtime. We started with opening number, which was a white or red cocktail dress and a mask of our choosing. our song was to Applause by Lady Gaga.

Next was swim, where I came out in my black suit I bedazzled for USA last January.

miss american nation swim

 Finally was gown, where I modeled my new burgundy gown that has sequins and lace on it.

miss american nation gown

I felt confident in swim, but during gown, the back of my dress got caught on the back of my heel which made it difficult to walk, and I’m sure one of the judges noticed because I saw him look at my feet. I had mixed emotions coming off stage. after a few minutes of waiting, we all went on stage to hear the announcement of top 5. This was a VERY competitive pageant with lot of experienced girls and former titleholders of other systems. I was devastated to not hear my name called, but extremely excited for Mary for making it.

A huge congratulations to Kara for winning! I met Kara a few years ago when she was actually my judge at Miss New York International. enjoy your year! And congrats to all the girls, I’m glad I got to share this weekend with you. Mary, thank you for encouraging me, being my friend and rock, giving me laughs, and of course for straightening my hair Saturday! I love you girlie. Sasha and Debbie, thank you for the opportunity.

mary pageant

Although I was disappointed that I wasn’t what the judges were looking for, at the end of the day, I am really competing against myself. If I look at the improvements I’ve made since my very first pageants, I know I have a lot to be proud of.

pictures of my first pageants;

Miss NYUSA 2012

Miss NYUSA 2012

MAO local 2012

MAO local 2012

Choices, decisions, and confidence

Being in a pageant is never easy. It requires a lot of work, both mentally and physically. Besides the diet and exercise needed for swimsuit and the skill preparation for interview, there’s the elegance factor for evening gown.

Picking a gown for this national pageant was by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I consulted with numerous pageant friends and even my fitness trainer to pick the one I thought would be perfect. After what seemed like an endless process, I chose a white Mac Duggal. I had never done white before so I was nervous to order it.

It came about 3 days later and upon trying it on I was a little nervous. I always have problems with my chest when it comes to dresses, and this one was no exception. I procrastinated getting it altered, but finally did, adding some support to the top and getting the bottom hemmed up.

I picked it up a few days ago and was so nervous and anxious to try it; I mean, nationals is only a week away! Upon trying it on (at work no less) I realized I wasn’t happy. Yes, its a gorgeous gown and it was now the perfect length, and flowed beautifully. However, I just didnt feel like myself. The top still didnt feel supported, and I felt it made me look larger than I was; it did nothing for my form or body. The past few days I’ve been so stressed going into nationals that I wasnt going to do well because of this dress (not to mention freaking out because another girl has this dress in another color)

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I was shopping in the mall today for an opening number dress when I came across a rack of sale gowns for after prom sales. I was just browsing, not intending to find anything, when I came across this electric blue one. Lately I’ve been gravitating to blue gowns and this one just jumped out at me. The tag said $30 on sale of the original $100 so I grabbed it to try on for fun or maybe as a backup to the white one. However, I tried it on and immediately fell in love with it. Needless to say I bought it, and was even happier to see it was on sale even more! It was a steal paying $18.03.

All night I’ve been sitting at a baseball game contemplating what to do. How can I possibly compare a $600 designer dress to a silly non designer $100 one? But then I realized, it’s not the dress that matters; its the girl in the dress. Judges aren’t looking at designer or cost or color or anything. They are looking at the total package, and for a girl that is poised and confident. And for me, this blue dress makes me feel absolutely amazing in every way.

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And with that, I am now 100 percent ready and confident to compete in one week for American National pageant finals.

Thank You

As my national pageant approaches, I just want to thank the people that have helped me along the way on this wonderful journey. Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I apologize in advance if I have forgotten someone!

Sarah and Anneliese, thank you for being the absolute best friends and pageant sisters I could ever ask for. All the countless conversations about what gown I should buy, talking about other pageants, and helping me with life in general. Because of you, I feel at ease and less stressed. I’m so thankful to have you in my life and I’m so excited for you to see me compete and to share more laughs and memories.

amanda sarah anneliese

Abbey, there’s too much to even put into words. I’m glad I’ve been a positive inspiration to you in the world of pageantry and I appreciate everything you do for me more than you know (you’re definitely a pretty good photographer :p )

abbeyy

Katherine, thank you for always telling me how much I’ve improved through the years and for your always honest opinions and reviews of my phases of competition. Plus letting me vent about my gown problems on the regular.

katherine

Megan, Brit, Nadia, Kayla, Mayra, April, and all my USA sisters, thank you for being amazing friends. There really isn’t a simpler way for me to say how much I love you guys.

friends

Mary, I met you at my first pageant ever and we instantly became friends, now we’re sister queens! I couldn’t think of anyone I would rather share this journey with <3

mary selfie maryy

Mom and dad, thank you for being supportive of me throughout my pageant years, regardless of how much you may dislike it at times. I appreciate you always coming out to watch me compete. I hope I continue to make you proud.

parents

Chris, thank you for being a great mentor and friend. Although we don’t talk often, you always have words of inspiration when it’s needed the most, and I always at ease after talking to you about an upcoming pageant or wardrobe choice. (we don’t have any pictures together :( )

Sergey, my fitness sponsor, thank you for sponsoring me with lessons, pushing me to my limit, and making my body the best it can be. I’m excited you’re going to roadtrip to come see me compete!

fitnessss

To my sister queens and directors Debbie and Sasha, thank you for making this such a great system to be a titleholder for

courntye alex

To my pageant friends (Katelynn, Marissa, Danielle, Adrienne, Katie, Kyanna), thank you for making appearances and pageants so much fun. I love spending time with all of you!

To all my friends, both from Shen and Saint Rose, thank you for your support from day one. This has been a crazy journey with a lot of ups and downs, and I absolutely love all of you that have stuck by me from the start. Thank you for being my cheerleaders at pageants, you have no idea how happy it makes me to look out into the crowd and have a fanclub.

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Exactly 2 weeks until Miss American Nation and I could not feel more ready and prepared. I’m excited to compete for the first time at the national level and no matter what happens, I know I’ll give it my best. For those that cannot attend, you can watch it online! Link coming soon :)

The tale of the swimsuit body

I feel like after every televised pageant, I see myself defending pageantry in some way, shape or form. Time and time again it comes back to the swimsuit portion. This is my two cents on it.

People consistently shame girls for their bodies, and in the end, no one ever really wins. Girls are either “too skinny” or they’re considered “pageant fat.” FYI to anyone that no knows nothing about pageants, the goal is not to be the skinniest girl; it’s about fitness level and a healthy lifestyle. More often than not, it’s not the skinniest girl that wins. The judges aren’t looking for who has the smallest waist, who works out the most (how would they even know that) or who diets the most. It’s about an overall healthy looking body, and of course, everyone’s definition is different.

This was me almost 4 years ago. Was I overweight? No. Was I super skinny? No. This is what was probably considered “normal” but again, everyone’s definition is different. I personally wanted to make a change to better myself, and also challenge myself, so that’s what I did.

This is what I look like right now. Because I wanted to make a change for myself, I started working out regularly, and started changing my diet. In the last 4 years, I’ve dropped a decent amount of weight, slimmed my waist, and toned up. I am happy with how my body is, but I still strive to continue to work hard to be the best version of myself. It’s not about comparing myself to others, or to other contestants. I am my own competition.

fitness

Here’s the fun part: both of these bodies are perfectly fine! There is no normal, there is no perfection. There is simply your own definition of achieving the body you want, regardless if that means you’re a size 2 or a size 10. Fitness is about working hard for yourself, whether that means losing weight, going from a size 12 to a size 8, or trying to achieve a level of tone. My personal journey is for myself and no one else, just like everyone else.

It makes me mad that literally over and over again, women of all shapes or sizes are constantly shamed or criticized over swimsuit bodies. Every girl on the Miss USA or Miss America stage has earned they way there, and all of them deserve praise, not rude criticism. All women are beautiful; Miss USA (Nia), Miss America (Nina), Miss Indiana USA, former Miss America Mallory (who told it like it really was in her Miss America Confidential special with regard to body image for pageants), and even myself.

Disclaimer: Maintaining a pageant swimsuit body is hard work. Weight and tone often fluctuate. Mallory Hagan was criticized after winning Miss America because her body didn’t stay the exact same size throughout her reign. For me personally, my tone fluctuates during pageant on and off seasons, and whether I’m training extra hard or not at the moment. That’s just the way it is, and people need to understand that.