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Helping Students “Fall in Love with Architecture” at a Bronx High School

Helping Students “Fall in Love with Architecture” at a Bronx High School

For the past four years, alumna Amneris Rasuk has taught at In-Tech Academy, a public middle and high school in the Bronx. Her specialties are freshman algebra, sophomore geometry, and architecture, which she teaches to juniors and seniors.

Rasuk (MArch’02) got a job in architecture in New York City right out of graduate school. But, in 2010, the Great Recession left her and many of her colleagues without work. She was working at Robert A.M. Stern Architects when the firm was compelled to make significant cuts to its staff.

It’s by mere chance that, while job searching, Rasuk began volunteering at her son’s school. Rasuk had no idea it would set her on a path to be an educator.

She hasn’t looked back since.

“I always thought that you’re here, and you better do something for whoever comes after you,” Rasuk says. “I thought building or creating or designing the environment was the only way to do that, for me at least. I realized that it’s not. Another way is reaching the young people.”

The energy Rasuk radiates while talking about architecture is infectious. That same kind of passion is what she hopes to instill in her students, Rasuk says, to “get them to a point that they fall in love with architecture.”

For her architecture class, of which students receive college credit, Rasuk has created a yearlong program that she describes as “geometry in architecture.” Students do formal geometry drills, learning how to draw a perfect triangle or square. Then she’ll teach proportion and scale. Next, they’ll design a room based on the dimensions of the human body, and, later, they’ll move onto a dwelling. She’ll lead field trips and encourage class discussions, and much, much more.

Unfortunately, being in what Rasuk calls a “low-income neighborhood public school,” funding for proper tools—especially those used to draft—is few and far between. She turned to Donors Choose, a crowdfunding site for educators, to raise money for high-quality architecture scale rulers, T-squares, and triangles. “Drafting is a very critical part of architecture,” Rasuk says. “I don’t necessarily like to put my kids on a computer without them understanding how a triangle works or how to draft a basic plan.”

Her goal is to raise $1,432 by December 1.

“I’m doing this for the kids, as naïve as that sounds,” she says. “I believe that my kids, who are low-income, deserve to have all the opportunities, and all the utensils like any other kids. When someone helps me pay for these utensils, it gets me closer to see how my kids learn.” 

Rasuk, from the Dominican Republic, says she sees “a lot of me in my kids.” Her students, from different parts of the country and the world, who speak different languages and have different cultures, manage to maintain a common thread, Rasuk says: “their desire to prosper and become better people through education.”

“It opens up the world for them when they actually understand certain things,” Rasuk says. “For some of them, they might not necessarily have a class like this again.”

Update: With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and 16 other donors, she met her goal of raising $1,432 last week. She is accepting donations for her next classroom project.