Amanda Studer, a third-grade teacher at Mundy Mill Academy, faced a dilemma of the heart nearly a decade ago when she found herself in a lucrative job in the boating industry “but I went home unfulfilled.”
Deciding what to do next came easy, if only because Studer, 37, always knew in the back her mind what she was meant to do, she said.
“I came from a family of educators,” Studer added. “It really is in my blood. That little thought kept coming back, so I just decided to jump in”
So, for two years, she attended night school at Brenau University while continuing to work during the day.
When she earned her master’s degree in teaching, she joined the Gainesville City School System.
And now Studer is going to have to get used to being recognized for her outstanding professional achievements.
She was recently named the Gainesville City Schools districtwide teacher of the year for 2018. This comes after she was recognized by Brenau in March at its Masters in Teaching honors.
It’s high praise from her colleagues, though Studer said accepting such well-earned esteem is “probably one of my biggest struggles.”
“I don’t like to talk about myself,” she added.
For Studer, working at Mundy Mill is a dream come true. She joined when the school opened last year so that she could be a part of building something from the ground up, she said.
And she serves on leadership teams, such as the school governance council.
“I wanted to see behind the scenes,” Studer said.
And behind the curtains she has witnessed a team of dedicated teachers, staff and administrators – the very people she credits for her own successes.
“They’ve supported me, they’ve motivated me, they’ve inspired me,” Studer said. “It truly is an honor.”
Studer said she has been encouraged to seek administrative roles, and she knows there is a “bigger picture” to public education, but she intends to remain in her classroom at Mundy Mill.
“I just can’t give up my classroom,” she said. “I can’t give up my kids.”
Studer said third grade is a challenging stage for 8- and 9-year-old students, a “big jump” developmentally
It’s when students take their first Milestones tests, for example, an end-of-grade assessment in English Language Arts and mathematics.
And it’s an age when students begin to contextualize and apply what they’ve learned in grades K-2, Studer said.
Moreover, at Mundy Mill, moving up to third grade requires a physical transition from one floor of the school building where K-2 are located to the upper level where grades 3-5 are stationed.
So, Studer said, she wears many hats teaching this grade level.
She’s not just an educator, but sometimes she plays the role of nurse, counselor, coach, cheerleader, referee or, hold your breath, janitor.
“I could list 20 of them,” Studer said, laughing.
But she won’t give it up because she loves “sparking curiosity in their brains.”
And she loves to be able to support her students by building their confidence, their compassion, and teaching them to persevere and not be scared of making mistakes.
It’s in the details where Studer seems to thrive.
“What I focus on most … is building authentic relationships with students,” as well as their families, she said.
It’s about developing trust.
And it’s about giving kids more than just words to read and numbers to compute.
“I’m teaching them how to be a human being,” Studer said.