Amber Ellis: Allowing her students a voice
Amber Ellis of Cedars International Academy is heading toward her second decade of teaching. Working with children was always something she felt called to, and in her 19th year of teaching it’s clear that it was the perfect fit.
Amber Ellis started teaching at 22 years old while finishing her teaching certificate. Just because she’s spent nearly two decades in the school system doesn’t mean she’s stopped learning. “I’m constantly looking for new methods, new ways to teach in more interactive ways.” She says she looks for trainings and workshops that will help her stay as efficient and hands on as possible. Teachers at Cedars International Academy aren’t assigned professional development, they get to choose it based on their needs or interests.
Amber loves to get her students involved. “I do a lot of visuals, a lot of anchor charts, a lot of kinesthetic learning – anything that’s going to resonant with them.” Cedars is a project-based learning campus, so Amber tries to make their required skills as applicable to the real world as possible. For example, Amber used a hockey game as an example of percentages via make/miss ratios that would change in real time as the game progressed. “Anytime I can apply it to real life and things that are happening now…it sticks with them,” Amber says.
Unsurprisingly, Amber’s classroom gives her kids a voice. She checks in with her students consistently to see how they feel about the lessons. Amber doesn’t stop at asking her students if they understand, she makes sure they feel comfortable with the concepts. “Understanding is a different thing than how they’re feeling. They may understand it but not feel comfortable with it.”
Amber’s understanding of her students’ mental state goes far in her classroom. When they’ve been home for a year and a half, she says, they may not have had the support at home. When in the classroom, Amber creates an environment where her students are comfortable and “not afraid to take risks.”