EASTERN HANCOCK — Amber Jenkins has only been teaching at Eastern Hancock Elementary School for a few years, but she’s already earned the reputation of going all out to help her students.
Jenkins, a special education resource teacher, worked with 24 students in kindergarten through fifth grade this year. She was recently awarded the Dave Pfaff Excellence in Education award as the teacher of the year for the district by Pfaff during a special appreciation ceremony wrapping up the school year.
“She’s a rock star,” Superintendent George Philhower said.
Jenkins loves the fact she gets to work with other Eastern Hancock teachers across the different elementary grade levels and find ways to reach students and help them succeed in the classroom.
“I have my own classroom, but the teachers here always welcome me into their classrooms where I can work with students and build community connections with kids,” Jenkins said.
Supporting students academically is key, Jenkins said, but so is building relationships with some of the kids who have a little more difficult time at school.
“They might have outside factors affecting them inside the school setting, so we like to really get to know the children and build strong connections,” she said. “I like supporting students that way and it’s probably my favorite thing about being a resource teacher.”
Jenkins has a motto to go by in her classroom or when she’s out and about in other parts of the elementary school building. She wants students to look at her for safety, connection and calmness.
“That’s our goal,” Jenkins said. “We have an incredible, amazing team of instructional assistants who I get to work with, and I could not do my job without them.”
For the students who come through the school with behavioral issues, Jenkins and her staff want those students to look forward to coming to school and learning in the classrooms because they are connected and have self-safety.
“Some students do need help in managing and regulating their behavior, and we have a great opportunity to meet those needs, help them to be calm so they can be more successful at school,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins joined the Eastern Hancock staff three years after serving 10 years in the Warren Central Township schools. She did her student teaching at Eastern Hancock years ago. When her own children were ready for elementary school, she made the move back to Eastern Hancock where her in-laws and husband graduated from, and she’s very glad she did.
“It’s been great being on the same schedule as my kids, and we get to come to school together,” she said.
Jenkins noted it’s been interesting going from a large Indianapolis school corporation to Eastern Hancock the past couple of years, but the one thing she’s noticed is, regardless of the district, there are always going to be students who need a little extra help.
“In both settings we have students with needs who need our support,” Jenkins said.
Earning the award was a “wonderful surprise” Jenkins said. She had no idea as she sat listening to her principal Amanda Pyle talk about how great this year’s teacher of the year winner was. Jenkins said she had no idea Pyle was describing her and was quite taken back when her name was announced.
“The words she used were incredibly kind,” Jenkins said. “Some of my other special education teammates afterwords said, ‘Amber how did you not know it was you?’”
Pyle noted Jenkins displays kindness and compassion toward her students and is well respected and admired by many who seek her advice.
“She loves with her whole heart and creates a felt-safe environment for many of our struggling learners,” Pyle said. “Her expectations are high, her practices are consistent, and her methods for delivering instruction are exemplary.”
Pyle likes the fact Jenkins is a learner, leader and problem-solver who is able to communicate with students, peers and parents in a kind and professional way.