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The Joy of Collective Learning: Damaris Altomerianos, L&T’19


The Intellectual Contribution Award is an honor that recognizes 13 Ed.M. students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. The award will be presented at Convocation on May 29.

Damaris AltomerianosDamaris Altomerianos came to the Ed School looking for the time and space to think about questions that she had around community — around forming and sustaining classroom communites that nurture a vision for a reimagined society. Enrolling in the Learning and Teaching (L&T) Program afforded her that time to dedicate to that learning.

“I came to HGSE to continue learning how to make the high school classroom more of a space where we support each other’s work toward reimagining our society and sustaining our collective work toward those visions,” she says.

The connections that she made to members of her cohort were so valued that she was selected the recipient of the Intellectual Contribution Award for L&T.

Damaris has made a deep contribution to our community,” says Senior Lecturer Kathryn Boudett, faculty director of L&T. “I was fortunate to be able to witness her multiple intelligences firsthand when we worked together this spring to plan the final workshop of the L&T program’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) series. Damaris was determined to create a space where her cohort could process DEI learnings from the year and support one another in thinking through their individual commitments to changing their practice. The joy she takes in collective learning is a real source of inspiration for me.”

Here, Altomerianos reflects on her year at HGSE and looks at her future in education:

What was your greatest fear before attending HGSE? One of my worries was that people would see me differently if they heard I was coming to HGSE. Honestly, this continues to be a worry. It’s an ongoing journey to reflect on time at this school and to decide how to talk about it.

What lessons from HGSE will you take with you into your career in education? Now, I’ll look back on this year and remember our inward-looking work, the opportunities to connect terms to what we already had been thinking about, which can provide affirmation, the terms that illustrate things we hadn’t been thinking about which can shift our worldviews, the unexpected lessons along the way, sharing our experiences with each other, and reflecting on what it means to hold vulnerability with care — for others and for ourselves. I’ll remember the feeling of being in the specific learning spaces here — at HGSE and outside of HGSE — that hold ideas, feelings, and energy in a way that I aspire to be able to do. Those memories of feelings are learning that we carry in our bodies.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program? Not sure if this is advice, but I’ll share what I wish I had known at the start of the year when choosing classes. At course previews, it’s not only about the instructor but also about the potential classmates who are previewing the class with you. Listen to yourself: How are you feeling in that space? Also, it’s really okay to consider classes beyond HGSE; I wish I had gone at least to the first session of a class I was considering!

How did you stay inspired throughout the year? I appreciate the conversations with friends, mentors, and family that got me through, sparked ideas, made room for the emotions, and supported curiosity. Thank you all for your brilliance and generosity. Being in wonder recharges me, so I appreciate the friends who brought me to the art that also kept me full of amazement this year. I also appreciate and want to thank the leaders of the affinity spaces that do so much for us to find each other and learn together.

The number one, biggest surprise of the last year was … how quickly one year can go by.  I was surprised at how difficult it can be (and how necessary it is) to find/build nurture/sustain community — broader HGSE community and more specific communities — here in that short time.

Read about the other recipients of the Intellectual Contribution Award and learn more about HGSE Commencement 2019.





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Changing the World with Empathy: Konstantin Offer, HDP’19


The Intellectual Contribution Award is an honor that recognizes 13 Ed.M. students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. The award will be presented at Convocation on May 29.

Konstantin OfferThe biggest motivator for Konstantin Offer in coming to HGSE was really quite simple: he wanted to learn how to love.

“Before entering the Ed School, I read Søren Kierkegaard’s Works of Love,” he says. “Kierkegaard’s philosophy had a profound influence on me, as it touches upon existential human concerns. His writings fostered a desire within me to learn how to love my neighbor as I love myself.”

Offer enrolled in the Human Development and Psychology (HDP) Program, where, he says, he developed a clearer understanding of just what neighborly love entails. He also gained valuable perspective on the struggles faced by people around the world, which deepened his commitment to help.

“There are many social inequalities and structural injustices in the world, and it is hard for me to unsee them after immersing myself in them,” he says.

Offer’s sensitivity and thoughtfulness was embraced by the HDP cohort, who have honored him with the Intellectual Contribution Award.

“Konstantin has been a wonderful contributor to our community,” write Senior Lecturer Richard Weissbourd and Professor Meredith Rowe, faculty directors of HDP. “He’s greatly appreciated by peers and faculty alike for his careful listening, agile mind, deep intelligence, generosity, and thoughtfulness. We’re delighted to recognize him with this award.”

Here, Offer reflects on his year at HGSE and looks ahead to his future in education:

What was your greatest fear before attending HGSE? The greatest fear that I faced before attending HGSE was a fear of death. I handed in my application to Harvard one day after my father’s funeral, which was a week before my 23rd birthday. It’s always hard to lose a parent at a relatively young age, and I quickly needed to learn how to stand on my own feet. Over the last nine months, I have developed a deep appreciation for the HGSE community, which I experience as a beautiful and caring space. I am grateful for all the people I have met during my time at Harvard and feel hope for the field of education when I see their generosity, sincerity, and kindness.    

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? One thing that I have learned over the last year is that human suffering is universal and inevitable. There are many different reasons why people suffer and most people suffer for one reason or another. Acknowledging other people’s suffering opens up a path for recognizing one’s own and other people’s humanity. This allows people to see themselves and others as they are, which makes it easier to act in and out of love.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program? Recognize that human development is not just an academic discipline to study, but that you will also develop as a human being while studying it. Take the time to better get to know yourself and strive for a more profound understanding of who you are, how you develop, and why you pursue the trajectories that you do.

If you could transport one person/place/thing from HGSE and/or Cambridge to your next destination, what would it be? I will miss the Charles River, as I have spent a great amount of time walking along its banks thinking about love, goodness, and truth.

What will you change in education and why? The Harvard Graduate School of Education aims at educating students to change the world, and I would like to contribute to a change that makes it is easier for people to love themselves and others. This journey will first and foremost entail that I keep on developing the qualities I hope to see in other people. To change the world, I need to change myself.

Read about the other recipients of the Intellectual Contribution Award and learn more about HGSE Commencement 2019.





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