What changes do you want to see in the education system?
I think we need to go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves, what kind of citizen do we want? Currently, we are creating citizens that can take standardized tests really well, but they can't seem to think outside the box. I would like to see education shift towards creative and innovative thought. Let's create thinkers and problem- solvers that are comfortable taking initiative.
What has been your most positive teaching experience?
Oh boy. There are so many. I am going to go more general here. There is a moment, as an educator, that you push for in your instruction. That moment when the student gets it. We call it the "ah-ha" moment. It is beautiful to see in your students eyes the gaining of knowledge. Every time I see it, it takes my breath away. Their eyes light up, they start to talk really fast, and the can't stop smiling. It warms my heart.
What qualities do you have that an excellent teacher needs?
I have an uncanny ability to build positive relationships with my students. Last year, I accepted a new position at University High School as an AP Geography and AP US Government teacher. I was spending my day with freshmen and seniors and it was interesting. Each year, the graduating class of UHS selects the people that they want to have read their names and give them their diploma. The ceremony is very intimate and personal, as it should be. Last year, my first year at UHS, the graduating class asked me to read their names! I was blown away. When the kids told me in class, it took all I had to not cry. I will never forget that night.
What stereotypes are true about teachers?
Haha. Elementary teachers do have the BEST handwriting! Social Studies teachers are the party animals. Science teachers really do like to play with chemicals and bugs. Middle School teachers are just like their students. They laugh at the most immature things. I can say this because I used to be a middle school teacher. Just ask my mother, I was just like my kids. Most good teachers are. We get them.
What's the best part of being a teacher for you?
The kids. I became an educator because I wanted to make sure that every kid knew what it felt like to be supported and loved. I would love to sit here and tell you that all parents are amazing. That all parents take their kids to school. That all parents take care of their kids the way they are supposed to. Unfortunately I can't. The reality is that some students need far beyond just an education. I help those kids however I can, whether it's giving them the attention they don't get at home, helping them get a meal, or even helping them get clean clothes if they need them. Helping the kids and making a difference is absolutely the best part about being a teacher.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
When I started college, I was determined to be an FBI agent. Halfway through Business Math 115, I had my own "ah-ha" moment. I remember it very clearly. It was about 2am when I called home. I told my mother that I was really depressed and needed to come home. I told her that I had failed my first class EVER in my life and that I just wasn't happy. She told me to come home. When I walked through the door, she was there. We sat down on the couch and I told her everything. I told her that I wasn't happy studying business. That I wanted more for myself. I looked her in the eye and said, " I want to be a teacher." She took a breath and said, "I think that is an excellent profession." I was shocked. I replied, "but I am going to be poor my whole life." She said, "According to whom? We need good teachers, Amy, and you will be a great one." the next day, I asked her if I could skip class, and I went and changed my major. Completed my teaching degree in two years and have never looked back!
University High School
How do you motivate and encourage your students?
Ah yes, the million dollar question. For me, it is about the curriculum. If the curriculum is engaging and relevant to the student, they will be motivated to learn. Each year, I re-write my curriculum and lesson plans after I get to know my students. Each lesson is tailored to their interests and backgrounds. This connects the student to the content and makes it a part of their life. Interest is embedded and motivation follows. The most challenging part is to help them back up when they fail. A lot of my students take failure personally. So each year, we start off by reading Mindset. My students must identify if they have a Fixed Mindset or Growth Mindset. Fixed mindset is where failure becomes an indication of personal worth. Growth mindset is where failure is no longer a reflection of personal worth, but of simply learning. This shift in thought, allows my kids to feel comfortable taking risks to answer questions on the fly that require them to think on their feet.
Picture of Amy with interviewer Tanya Barnett