Exhibit: Women Who Dared
BiographiesMultimediaBy CityAbout WWD Jewish Gender Activism
What She Said
  Pamela  Sussman Paternoster
  Activist Educator
  Boston WWD Event 2005
  Program manager for The Algebra Project in Cambridge
Biography  up to top

The summer before Pamela Sussman Paternoster went to college she worked as a playground supervisor in an African American neighborhood in Canton, Ohio. Taunted by teenagers from the neighborhood, Pamela endured the summer of 1971 by dodging rocks and bottles. "I made a million mistakes and assumptions that summer, but it changed my life forever."

Growing up with a strong Jewish identity in a small mid-western town in the 1950's, Pamela was used to being in the minority. Upon graduation from Ohio State University, Pamela became the first white teacher assigned to an all black school in Cleveland during desegregation.

In 1982 Pamela moved to Massachusetts and took a job at the King Open School in Cambridge. It was here that she met Bob Moses — an icon in the Civil Rights Movement. Passionate about mathematics, Moses asked staff at the school to pilot a curriculum he developed which would help middle school students transition from arithmetical to algebraic thinking. Those pilot lessons turned into what is now The Algebra Project — a program that aims to help African American, Latino, and poor students develop math skills that are vital for entering college. As a program manager for the Project in Cambridge, Pamela's work has included program design and implementation, evaluation and community organizing throughout the country including the Mississippi Delta. Believing that "mathematics literacy is a civil right", Pamela and her collegues have helped the Project reach approximately 10,000 students and 300 teachers across the United States.

What She Said  up to top
"What I learned that I was able to transfer to my work, was dignity in being white." ...More 
"My Jewish identity growing up was something that was not explicit in the context of social action." ...More 
"My grandma Grace was the bravest person I ever met." ...More 
"As a woman, I grew up in a family that said, 'Go to college. Either be a teacher, a social worker, or a nurse.'" ...More 
"The women's movement had a huge impact on me." ...More 
"If we're going to go out and conquer other nations while promoting democracy, we can have a more credible affect globally if we practice democracy here in the USA." ...More 
"The challenge has always been being a guest." ...More 
Multimedia  up to top
Photographs Photographs
Articles, Brochures, other papers Papers 

Letter from NPR congratulating "Children Shout Out" producers for winning third place in a national contest of youth radio programs. Pamela Sussman Paternoster was the teacher & advisor. May 11, 1978.

Article from Smithsonian magazine about The Algebra Project
Reprinted by permission of the author, Bruce Watson.

 up to top

How to Cite This Page
For a bibliography: Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Pamela Sussman Paternoster." <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=pppaternoster>.

For a footnote: Jewish Women's Archive, "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Pamela Sussman Paternoster," <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=pppaternoster>.