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Ambra Johnson is Liberty Middle School's Teacher of the Year. (CONTRIBUTED)
Ambra Johnson is Liberty Middle School's Teacher of the Year. (CONTRIBUTED)

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Johnson, Liberty’s top teacher, engages students in dialogues

Published 10:36pm Wednesday, June 5, 2013

MADISON – Ambra Johnson, Teacher of the Year for Liberty Middle School, views her role as facilitator and listener. “I’m not teaching my students; they’re teaching themselves and each other through questions, dialogue and reflection,” she said.

An eighth-grade language arts teacher, Johnson served as team lead for Team 8 and on the strategic teaching and district’s textbook adoption committee and literacy teams.

To study S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders,” Johnson’s students used “social networking and current events to connect society’s perceptions of the characters to our society’s perceptions of people based (on) race and social class. We took risks by inviting students to tweet (and) … create a venue in which students can be digital citizens while discussing these important topics.”

Her students discussed online articles “about teenager stereotypes by adults and racial profiling in our country, which resulted in teen character connections and social class profiling in ‘The Outsiders.’ Parents, administrators, other students and strangers joined in our conversations about labels, bullies, teenagers, tolerance and activism,” Johnson said.

As a result, students created the “I Am Wall” by her classroom, an accomplishment that gives Johnson great pride. Her students completed surveys about stereotypes at Liberty. A math class tabulated and analyzed results (bestpracticescenter.org/blog/?newsID=158).

Students wrote words and phrases on paper and glued these to the wall “to eliminate stereotypes and tell the world who they really are. We discussed perceptions of teenagers and adults in Liberty, Madison, Alabama, America and our world,” she said.

To view their YouTube video, visit http://youtu.be/Oo6ZMo7fTUc.

As a teacher, Johnson is “sharing knowledge, asking questions, pushing them past their comfort zones, watching them fail, encouraging them to try again, helping them realize their potentials, creating new situations … and constantly asking for more.”

Teaching’s major challenge is “balancing time between all of required roles and responsibilities of a teacher,” Johnson said.

Johnson received bachelor and master’s degrees in language arts at Auburn University and education specialist status in curriculum and instruction from Middle Tennessee State University.

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