2016-01-17 / Insight

North Branch teacher Amber White proud of profession

BY ALEX PETRIE
810-452-2609 • apetrie@mihomepaper.com


Amber White, 42, of North Branch, is the literacy coach at Ruth Fox Elementary School in North Branch, and has been teaching since she was 21 years old. Here, she explains to sixth-grade students positive and negative integers. White explained that literacy is “…how you access math, social studies, science, the world,” and that it “involves being able to prepare kids to be able to read in… multi-modal environments.” 
Photo by Alex Petrie Amber White, 42, of North Branch, is the literacy coach at Ruth Fox Elementary School in North Branch, and has been teaching since she was 21 years old. Here, she explains to sixth-grade students positive and negative integers. White explained that literacy is “…how you access math, social studies, science, the world,” and that it “involves being able to prepare kids to be able to read in… multi-modal environments.” Photo by Alex Petrie NORTH BRANCH — To follow one’s passion, especially given the current economic climate, has become more and more difficult in recent years. This pursuit is particularly ambitious, even formidable, when it involves a career in education, an increasingly thankless job with monetary rewards that border on insulting. These obstacles, however, have done little to deter one teacher from North Branch, a woman who has unapologetically pursued her passion regardless of monetary gain.


Amber White Amber White Amber White, 42, of North Branch, has been pursuing a career in education since making a decision “as a kid” that she would become a teacher, something she views as a noble and necessary occupation. She teaches with devotion, excitement and fervor. Her students at Ruth Fox Elementary School in North Branch have become her life, her job has come to define her, and it shows.

“I love it here in North Branch,” said White. “There’s definitely something to be said about a small community. I love the fact that everybody knows everybody, which is obviously a lot different than a lot of your bigger districts. We’re small, but we pull from a large radius. And I just like the small community feel. I feel like the right hand constantly talks to the left hand. You know your teachers, and I feel like they’re very invested. It’s just a great community to live in and work. And you never work if you like the people you’re working with, right?”

While she teaches, her voice is emphatic and full of expression. “Awesome” is a term used frequently, at once a sincere exclamation and a method of connecting with her young and ambitious pupils. She raises the bar in every sense, both demanding engagement and connecting with each of the kids in front of her. White, whose height hovers right around 5’ exemplifies Shakespeare’s famous quote from a Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” And it is perhaps her diminutive stature that allows children to feel closer to her, literally and figuratively. She is a dynamo, a firecracker, whose ambition is only outweighed by her compassion.

White was born and raised in North Branch, which may explain a portion of her devotion to her school and the unfettered excitement present in her teaching. Her goal is to improve not just the students in her classroom, but the school itself. She has implemented innumerable programs and educational tools, mostly involving technology, in an attempt to prepare the young students for the tech-heavy landscape that is today’s world.

“I’m a big techie, and I’ve done a lot in the district with tech literacy,” she explained. “I think you can leverage technology in ways that are really smart, and it’s not even necessarily about the technology, it’s about the learning and the thinking that technology engenders in the kids. I’m a very firm believer in that. It’s creating conversation, thinking, talking, showcasing content.

“For example, you think about tablets and reading,” she continued, “It levels the playing field when a child can tap on a word and actually see and read about Ghana, and they can click on ‘Ghana’ and see where it is in the world instantaneously. That makes the reading a much more immersive and interactive experience.”

White is a firm believer in incorporating as much sensory learning as possible in her classrooms, giving students the information needed to fully understand, comprehend, and retain the information pertinent to their subject. The tools available in today’s age are able to further education in a very accessible and captivating way. Kids are learning without feeling like they’re working, which may well be the most effective method for elementary-age students.

“There’s so much beauty in learning and reading like that. It makes it so much more engaging,” explained White. “Whether you love or hate (technological implements), there’s an art and a beauty to it that absolutely captivated me, and I knew that it would be the same with my students. Part of my job as a reading or literacy specialist, and when I say ‘literacy’, I mean how you access math, social studies, science, the world, involves being able to prepare kids to be able to read in these multi-modal environments.”

Not only does White devote her workweek to bettering herself and her students to create a fulfilled and educated and productive group of young people, but she also takes time during her summers and weekends to prepare herself for what’s next, what’s on the horizon in terms of technology and new and innovative learning methods. She has established not only Ruth Fox Elementary, but North Branch Schools as a formidable district, competing with much more affluent areas and creating an environment that has begun churning out forward thinking students that are equipped to flourish in their promising futures.

“I’m just constantly trying to think about how we can be innovative, how we can pioneer, how we can lead the way,” she said, enthusiastically. “We’re finding a way to make things happen on a limited budget, but, more importantly, it’s about doing what’s best for our kids, and we find a way to do it. Period.”

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