Staff Spotlight: Amy Greenbaum Strauss
THE 180: What brought you to Turnaround for Children?
AMY GREENBAUM STRAUSS: I was immediately drawn to Turnaround for Children because of its mission. I’ve been a social worker for nearly three-and-a-half decades and my career has always been centered in the areas of child welfare, domestic violence, and adolescence and children with psychiatric disabilities. Joining an organization that prioritizes equity in the education, supports struggling schools and makes sure highest-needs students received the services they really need was a natural next step in my career.
THE 180: Is there a particular moment in your ten years at Turnaround that stands out the most?
AMY GREENBAUM STRAUSS: Since day one, I have been in awe of and have such deep respect for the work I see happening in our partner schools. The schools Turnaround partners with are filled with children and families living with high degrees of adversity, challenges and trauma that most of us would be broken down by, yet I see hope and perseverance. I watch our counselors juggle the needs and emotions of so many students, always compassionate in their efforts to make sure students have the resources, services and support they need. I see the same in our teachers and school leaders. It’s a powerful thing to see people so committed. I love that I can be there for them, to be part of the work. I’m grateful they let me in, let us in, so that together we can help to overcome challenging obstacles and make things better.
THE 180: What is unique about the way Turnaround partners with schools?
AMY GREENBAUM STRAUSS: One of the unique things about Turnaround is how we come in as a team with our own interdisciplinary approach and philosophy. By pairing each school with a program director to support leadership, an instructional coach to support teachers and a social work consultant to aid in student support, we’re able to take a holistic approach to addressing school and student needs. When Turnaround enters a school, it becomes part of that school. We don’t just come in and tell everyone what to do. We look at the specific challenges a school has, we get our hands dirty and together we work to build strategies and processes that cultivate safe, supportive learning environments to accelerate healthy student development and academic achievement.
THE 180: What does a typical day look like for you?
AMY GREENBAUM STRAUSS: Being a social work consultant at Turnaround, no two days are ever the same. Sure, there are standard routines – I check in with my counselors, my Turnaround team and the school leadership to get a handle on what I’m walking into each morning, and whether or not there might be a crisis or situation that needs my support. The rest of my day is often filled with classroom observations, coaching and supporting the school’s guidance counselors, social workers and other school staff, developing student support systems, working with the Student Support Team, and working with our mental health partners to assure students get expedited access to the services they need. Plus, there are always new initiatives to tackle. It’s one of the many aspects I love about the work – really being creative and figuring out how to make support services or new ways of thinking accessible to our community.
For example, at Young Voices Academy of the Bronx, we just created a student survey. Turnaround administers surveys to grades three and above, but didn’t have a way to capture younger student perspectives. So Ms. Chia, the school counselor, and I developed an experimental survey for students in kindergarten through second grade with support and input from my team at Young Voices and Turnaround’s Organizational Learning and Impact team. After distributing the survey, I was in awe of how much thought and energy the students put into answering each question. For example, one kindergartener who struggled said, “Well sometimes I think kids use nice words, but they don’t always use nice words, so I’m not sure if I should do a thumbs up or thumbs down for this question.”
THE 180: What motivates you?
AMY GREENBAUM STRAUSS: One of my favorite aspects about being at Turnaround is that I never stop learning. I have a lot of knowledge and experience that I bring to the table, but I don’t know everything. Every day I learn something new, whether I’m working with a parent or a principal or one of my colleagues. I’m not sure many people can say that about their job—to be inspired by the work around them, to work with people deeply committed to the same goal of driving healthy student development and academic achievement and to learn and grow, each and every day.