Teaching & Learning Alumni

Dylan Farmer '12

Dylan Farmer is the Assistant Director of Strategic Partnerships at the SMU Simmons School’s Center on Research and Evaluation. She graduated from Simmons with a Master of Education in 2012.

 

What do you do professionally and what is most rewarding about your job?

I am the Assistant Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Center on Research and Evaluation at the Simmons School. In this role, I oversee and manage research and evaluation projects and strategic initiatives with local and state community partners. The evaluation and research focus of these partnerships means we are collaborating to continuously improve public and nonprofit programs and ultimately educational outcomes for youth across North Texas and the state. The most rewarding thing about my work is the consistency with which I am motivated and inspired by the smart, innovative and thoughtful people leading this important work in our community. It's hard and stubborn work, but I'm often reminded that the kids of North Texas are in great hands.

 

What were some of the most meaningful aspects of your education at Simmons?

The focus on evidence-based instruction, the variety of perspectives and personalities of the faculty, and the tight-knit cohort experience.

 

How did your education at Simmons prepare you for your professional career?

I don't teach K-12 students directly through my work, so I usually don't get to directly apply the skills I gained to my daily work. That being said, the experience of teaching in the classroom and the knowledge of content and pedagogy I gained gives me a unique perspective in my work. It helps me plan school and program-based evaluation and research with that teacher perspective in mind, and it allows me to truly understand the strategies and goals of the programs I partner with. Having that knowledge of how children learn helps me to deeply strategize methods and goals for improvement with our partners.

 

What are some highlights from your experience as a SMU student?

Spending long days together on campus in the summer with my program cohort and the student teaching experience at Walnut Hill Elementary.

 

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum?

I believe the faculty, staff and students of Simmons are truly committed to addressing persistent issues in education. I see in my work everyday, as a Simmons staff person, the unique gift that Simmons is to the North Texas community.

Andrew Forisha '19

Andrew Forisha is a mathematics instructor at the United States Naval Academy. He graduated from Simmons with a Masters of Education in 2019. 

What do you do professionally and what is most rewarding about your job? 
I am a mathematics instructor at the United States Naval Academy. Previously, I was a high school mathematics teacher at Hillcrest High School in Dallas ISD. The most rewarding thing about teaching mathematics is getting students to understand it and, even more so, appreciate it. I like showing students how interconnected mathematics is to the world around them. 

What were some of the most meaningful aspects of your education at Simmons? 
I truly enjoyed diving deeper into how to deliver meaningful mathematical content and also interacting with so many different educators and listening to their experiences. 

How did your education at Simmons prepare you for your professional career? 
I think it opened me up to make sure I listened to all the other educators around me and builded upon from their hard fought lessons on teaching. 

What are some highlights from your experience as a SMU student? 
The parking lot conversations after class and the interactions with amazing professors. 

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum? 
Knowing that I'm one of many educators out there making a difference at all levels in education in all types of roles with the only common thread being that we're SMU Mustangs I think speaks to the outreach of Simmons and its involvement with the global community. It's a wonderful feeling knowing I'm part of something larger than myself. 

Denare Carter

Denare Carter '17

Denare Carter is the Director of Special Populations at KIPP: Texas‐Dallas‐Fort Worth, a charter school. He graduated from Simmons with a Masters of Education in Special Education and Teaching in 2017.

What do you do professionally and what is most rewarding about your job?
I am currently the Director of Special Populations for KIPP: Texas Dallas Fort Worth. KIPP is a national charter school network with Texas being one of their divisions from the overall mission. The most rewarding part about my job is every day I have the ability to be a positive role model to a child. Every day I have the pleasure of showing up to do God's work in mentoring young minds, including those that used to be thrown away or taught in a basement.

What were some of the most meaningful aspects of your education at Simmons?
The most meaningful aspect of my education at Simmons are the professors. I have a lasting relationship with most, if not all, of the teachers that helped develop me. I can still contact many of them for assistance in some form or fashion.

How did your education at Simmons prepare you for your professional career?
My education at Simmons is what got me into my current position. Since graduation, I have been promoted three times in four years. I owe all of my success to Simmons, Dr. Jones, Dr. Rossi and so many more. Their belief in me as a student and pathway to my career is unparalleled.

What are some highlights from your experience as a SMU student?
My experience as a student at SMU may have ended technically (for now) but it is far from over. As stated previously, I am still able to reach my professors. There have been times I needed to bounce an idea and someone was always there for me. This experience has allowed me to believe that my experience here was not for just a season, but for a reason.

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum?
As a Dallas native, I am extremely proud to be an alumni from SMU and Simmons. The relationships and experience gained over my time there continue to propel me forward now. There were lifelong relationships formed through dedication and networking.

Paul Polanco '20

Paul Polanco is a Data Analyst at Big Thought, a Dallas-based nonprofit that provides a range of services to area youth. He graduated from Simmons with a Ph.D. in Education in 2019.

What do you do professionally and what is most rewarding about your job?

I am currently working as a data analyst at Big Thought, a local non-profit that provides a range of services to the Dallas metropolitan area youth. The most rewarding area of my job is how through data analysis, I provide insightful information that makes me of the decision-making process as it relates to program development that benefit the children we serve.

What were some of the most meaningful aspects of your education at Simmons?

When I became a graduate student, I had many ideas of how to work with the local community and how use my previous experiences as a teacher in the local school district to make an impact locally. At Simmons, I had a group of dedicated mentors who guided my thinking and provided the necessary research so that I could make the best decision based on my interest. In other words, I found the personal and educational support I needed to meet my goals.

How did your education at Simmons prepare you for your professional career?

At Simmons, there was a strong focus on data analysis and using data to support decisions that impact education in areas of policy and teaching practices. This focus on data also considered qualitative information about the communities impacted by the policies or practices which helped us make better analysis about the issues we had at hand. More importantly, it provided the necessary tools to well-rounded decisions in my current position, looking at the different perspectives when deciding what programs could better serve our local children.

What are some highlights from your experience as a SMU student?

Working with professors who were dedicated to investigating policies and practices that impacted the educational community was really impactful in how I looked at my own research. Moreover, having a group of professors who were mentors and colleagues is another highlight that shaped my experience at SMU.

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum?

At Simmons, I found a community of intellectuals that helped me use my background to shape my research agenda and who challenged me to look for the best solutions to current educational issues. Also, the faculty at Simmons is also actively engaged in the local educational community and it has a voice that is respected. Having a supportive faculty working on research and using it to positively impact the local community is something that definitely makes me proud to be a Simmons alum.

Condensed and edited.