Amara L. Alexander
Horizon Elementary School
(6th Grade Science/Social Studies Teacher)
1. Why did you choose to be an educator?
To borrow and modify a line from Forrest Gump, teachers are like a box of chocolates- you never know which ones will make an impact on your life. There are three that I can say influenced me to enter education. The first person is Mrs. Laura Henderson, my high school cheer coach. At the time I didn’t know or appreciate what she was doing. She pushed her athletes to excel; run faster, rework that stunt, and work as a team. Her main focus was for her cheerleaders to be the best and she didn’t accept anything less. Her influence as a coach/teacher and mentor continue to drive my instruction. I push my students to excel academically and personally.
Sometimes the teacher that influences you is a character out of a movie. Oddly enough, Sister Act is one of my favorite movies and Sister Mary Clarence, Whoopi Goldberg’s character, was the teacher I wanted to be. She used the student’s language to reach them, and her students believed in her because she believed in them. Sister Mary Clarence used music and spunk to connect with her students and she was the kind of teacher I wanted to become. She took everyday examples and their world experiences to engage the students in learning. I try to use those same strategies in my own classroom.
Finally, my own mother, Dr. Tammy Alexander, was the perfect role model. Teaching 4th grade in a rural Alabama community, she encouraged students to see beyond their circumstances and picture the future. She was tough but was and is loved by fellow teachers, students and community leaders. Each day, I try to mimic a little of them.
2. What inspires me?
As you enter my classroom, the movie poster of the original ROCKY is posted. I fell in love with this movie as a young girl. His story of the being underdog that triumphs under pressure inspired me and still does. Balboa believed in himself when others didn’t and he fought for what he believed regardless of what others thought. Rocky’s passion for boxing motivated me to become the teacher I am today. Each day, my students face a new challenge. I am with them along the way. The demands of teaching are high and the expectations to succeed weighs on you. However, I choose to fight each day for the student’s I believe in. I see their potential and aim for them to see it in themselves. I hope to inspire them to change the world and be great adults one day. I hope they take their experiences from my classroom and use them in their daily lives. Rocky has a willingness to follow his passion and with that spirit, I try to follow mine. Teaching is my joy. It is the air I breathe. It wakes me up in the middle of the night and forces me to dream big.
3. What would you like to see from the Krystal Foundation?
There is a great deal of talk about STEM education in the elementary classroom. I would say that this is one reform that I would like to see implemented. Within the K-6 education, students should be exposed to more STEM education in the elementary classroom. Often the subject of science is skipped when there is not enough time to get to all subjects. Some teachers even alternate teaching science and social studies because it is “not a subject that is tested”. STEM in the elementary setting lays the foundation for Middle School and High School. It is active and focuses on a student- centered learning environment. With that being said, I would like the Krystal Foundation to think about platforms that:
a) Provide funds for teachers to create STEM labs in elementary schools. I believe students need time to explore and think-outside-the-box. Science education allows students to think critically while being collaborative creators. This empowers students to find solutions for challenges and apply them to real world problems, think through and answer complex questions as well as investigate global issues. A STEM lab will allow students to have exposure to STEM curriculum to be able to advance in a tech savvy world.
b) Provide opportunities for students to attend professional learning opportunities that will enhance their knowledge of science content. These professional learning opportunities will strengthen the teachers’ practice as well as improve learning for students.
c) Finally I would like for the Krystal Foundation to help teachers transform their classroom to reflect the 21st century. For example, I have included flexible seating in my own classroom. Students can sit on stools or yoga balls. Also, students may sit on old tires filled with pillows or lounge on our class carpet. Flexible seating gives students a different type of seating and offers a more relaxed classroom versus the traditional classroom seats. Funds from the Foundation will help teachers to make this a reality.