Walks in the Arbo: Dr. Amanda Gregory

Emily Freelund

It is difficult to develop a true bond with teachers without understanding their backgrounds and interests.  The series, “Walks in the Arbo,” aids students in seeing a side of their teachers that differs from what is typically seen in the classroom.

On December 11, 2020, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Gregory. For 6 years, Dr. Gregory has been an active member of the MBS community. She teaches in the World Languages Department, runs the MBS Summer Institute and serves on the Social Justice board as the Gender Equity Coordinator. You may know Dr. Gregory’s teaching style, or maybe you passed her in the halls once, but do you really know who she is? Our discussion will lead you toward a broader understanding of Dr. Gregory as a person and a teacher.

 

On teaching high school students…

“Well I used to teach college students. And I liked teaching them, but I think it was hard that I didn’t know anything about them besides… They would just show up to my class and then they’d leave and I had no idea what their lives were like or what their majors were. There wasn’t an opportunity to get to know them unless they specifically came to see you. So I like being aware of what my student’s lives are like outside of my class and knowing who their other teachers are and what sports they’re doing. I just think knowing somebody as a person and what they do day-to-day helps you teach them a little bit better.”

 

On her experiences before MBS and their influence… 

“So when you go to college you’re going to realize that your professors—some of them are going to be really good teachers—but a lot of them are not going to be great teachers. And that is because when you are a college professor, it’s not usually about teaching. It’s about the research you do. And it’s also a lot easier to teach high level things. It’s much harder to teach the basics. So I didn’t really know what I was doing when I came here because I had only taught college before. I first taught a seventh grade class with about eleven boys, and they were insane. I had such a hard time, but that was when I learned how to be a teacher. And then I just had to grow based on that. But yes, I taught college, I adjuncted at a couple of universities, but you know, it wasn’t as stable as doing this. Around ten years before I came here I was getting my PhD in Classics.”

 

On her inspiration to study and teach Latin…

“This goes back really far. So when I was a child my mom took me and my sister to Catholic Church, and I was never into it. I wanted to bring my book, but she would never let me bring it. The only thing she would let me read was this little prayer hymnal that they had in the pew. I was around seven, eight, or nine years old when this happened. That little prayer hymnal has Latin prayers on one side and English on the other, so I’d spend the entire hour and fifteen minutes in Church—depending on who the priest was, because I would always try to get my mom to go to the ones that were short—trying to figure out what the Latin said based on the English. So when my high school had Latin I was like ‘I’m going to try to learn it—actually learn it.’ And I did and I was just naturally really good at it. I excelled in the subject, so I kept doing it in college. I picked the college that had a really good Classics program. I picked up Greek as a freshman and they just kept going because I really loved it and wanted to know as much as I could about it. There’s a lot of things you can do as a Classics major, but I just wanted to keep interacting directly with what I loved to do the most, and teaching is the best way to do that.”

 

On creating a comfortable and engaging environment…

“I think that I don’t see as much of a divide between myself and my students. There is a divide of course, but I think that students often get treated as young people, which you are. But I try to approach them as adults and interact with them as I would with anybody that I would meet. I think that helps. I also just try to let people be themselves, and I try not to be too judgemental in what people bring to the table. I think everyone kind of does the best given what they can at the most, and they learn different ways and at different paces. I try to be accepting of that and not be too harsh. I mean I try to keep my expectations high, but I also know that there are different ways and different times that people will meet them.”

 

On her favorite hobbies and outdoor activities…

“I hate the outdoors. Well that’s not true, but it’s kind of true. I’ve been camping once and I hated it. I stayed up the entire night afraid that I was going to be the first person to have her face ripped off by a bear. But besides that, I do sometimes like to go outside in very controlled situations, you know, with the right gear and in close proximity to a toilet. But, what do I do? I read a lot. I really enjoy reading novels. I also read a lot of novels that I don’t like and write really harsh reviews of them on Goodreads and Amazon. I read a lot when I can. I do actually like to exercise. I have a Peloton. I’m obsessed with it. So I do a lot of cycling and yoga. But beyond that, I have a one and a half year old, and that takes up a lot of my time.”

 

On her favorite teaching moment…

“I don’t know if I can pick just one. I’ve had a few groups of students that I have very fond feelings about. One of them was my advanced Latin class my first year I was here. I just had a group of kids who were really, really into it and loved it. We had a good connection. I still think about them and miss them. On the other end of the spectrum—that 7th grade class I mentioned that was horrible and I used to dread going in—we had a Saturnalia party, which is the same Saturnalia party I do every year. It was complete chaos, but everyone was teaching me something. I was the student and they were the teacher that day. One of my students ate 13 mini cupcakes. One of them taught me a bunch of curse words in a different language. There was this weird moment where we all sort of gelled as a group, and it shifted everything. When we got back from break I had their trust and was able to control them and move them along in a way that was better than what I had before. It was a turning point moment with a difficult class that was just because I completely let them do what they wanted to do and let them be free for a day.”

 

On one thing the MBS community doesn’t know about her…

“I don’t know if they don’t know this—they might guess, but they don’t know—that I am the worst baker that there ever was. If you thought about it you’d probably be like is she a bad baker and you’d be like yes she it! They might not know, but they might have guessed. I try to bake quite a bit and it’s always absolutely terrible. [How about cookies?] Oh yeah, they are burnt. Totally burnt. I don’t know how. It’s like I’m cursed. So I am a terrible baker. Another thing they might not know is that I hate watch, but watch fervently, The Bachelor. I hate it so much, and I hate it more every time I watch it, but I can’t stop. I’m in The Bachelor loop. I’m stuck in the loop and I really want off the ride because it’s turning into a haunted house of emotions and gender dynamics, and I can’t get out. But yeah, I watch that pretty regularly. Also, before I became a classics major I was a voice performance major for a year before I dropped it. But I wasn’t as good at singing as I was at Greek and Latin.”