Student Spotlight with Andrew Biros


Mark Stehle

INQUIRING MIND: Biros, a Leonore Annenberg Teaching Fellow, is a student in the Graduate School of Education (GSE). He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Penn and also holds a master’s in public policy from University College London. He is currently a student teacher at University City High School.

THE LIGHT WITHIN: A Quaker, Biros refers to himself as a “social justice educator.” He says his Quaker education helped to shape his commitment to putting his beliefs into practice. He is devoted to working with students who, based solely on where they were born, are underserved. “The social justice aspect is serving those students and making sure that those students have just opportunity to succeed,” he says.

SOCIETAL STUDIES: At University City, Biros works alongside Matthew Roy, a social studies teacher and Penn alumnus. Biros took over Roy’s social science class in October and, using GSE’s inquiry approach, created his own social science curriculum. His class has covered the usual social studies topics, but has also addressed controversial and culturally relevant issues such as the city’s education gap, drug and crime problems, and the troubling drop-out and homicide rates.

PHILADELPHIA STORIES: “A lot of persons in our community have been affected by Philadelphia’s high homicide rate,” he says. “Because it kept coming up in class discussions, I viewed this as an opportunity to really address an issue that is so culturally relevant to my students.”

POWER TO THE YOUNG PEOPLE: Biros makes frequent use of technology in his class, creating audio and video presentations with Apple’s Keynote software and presenting lessons on his iPad. Recently, he showed students a map indicating the sites of the city’s many homicides and how the majority of them have occurred in West, Southwest, and North Philadelphia. After identifying the problem, the class discussed solutions. “Having that positive, empowering interaction with an adult, having their voices valued, their opinions valued, I feel is so important,” Biros says.

STRAIGHT TALK: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter visited Biros’ classroom on March 16 to speak with the students about education and social justice. “I was really impressed with Mayor Nutter’s candidness and engagement with my students,” he says. “He didn’t placate my students with traditional [politician’s] answers.

CHANGE AGENTS: Through their classroom discussions, Biros says he hopes his students will come to understand that their voices do matter. “If they think that there’s a problem within their community that they would like to see solved, they have the power to make that change,” he says.

Originally published on April 12, 2012