Words by Anna Lee Vaughn | Images by Justin Hunter
Amy Atkins’ journey in education began with her love for children, a love that grew even more after becoming a parent herself. She pursued a degree in Elementary Education and embarked on her teaching career, starting as a kindergarten teacher at Carbon Hill Elementary School.
Reflecting on those early days, Atkins recalls, “We were in trailers at that time because of tornado damage at our school. It was like I had my own little house with all my kiddos in it, and it was like a little family. And I remember thinking I was having so much fun with these kids and getting paid to do it.”
Atkins dedicated five years to teaching kindergarten before moving on to first grade, where she remained for nine years. It was during this time, while immersing herself in the study and research of effective classroom strategies, that she developed a passion for teaching children how to read. When the opportunity arose, she applied for and secured the position of Reading Interventionist at the school.
Her pursuit of excellence in teaching led her to work towards obtaining her National Board Certification, a rigorous evaluation of her teaching methods. Atkins describes this process as an ‘eye-opening experience,’ a testament to her unwavering commitment to the craft of teaching.
Additionally, Atkins’ involvement in the 21st Century After School Program allowed her to contribute significantly to curriculum planning, engagement activities, and professional development for the school’s staff. Gradually, these responsibilities shifted her focus towards administration. Atkins took the leap and applied for the Assistant Principal position, which she successfully filled for two years before assuming the role of Principal in September 2023.
As Principal, Atkins has a vision for the school year ahead, which includes several innovative programs:
- Conscious Discipline: Atkins aims to empower the school staff by teaching them to self-reflect and regulate their thoughts and emotions before addressing student behavioral issues. She recognizes the importance of the Conscious Discipline Action Team (CDAT) in effective leadership, emphasizing that “Behavior is a form of communication.”
- Brain Smart Start: Atkins plans to implement activities that foster a sense of unity and connection among students and teachers, alleviate stress, and encourage students to make positive commitments for the day ahead.
- School-Wide Expectations: Atkins aims to establish clear school-wide expectations encapsulated in the motto: “Be safe, be respectful, and be responsible.”
- Social and Emotional Impacts: Beyond academics, Atkins underscores the significance of addressing social and emotional challenges faced by students.
In her own words, Atkins emphasizes her commitment to creating a close-knit school community, saying, “Creating our school family is important to me. We’ve always had a loving, caring staff, and I’ve only taught at Carbon Hill, so this is absolutely my home. That’s the case for many teachers here, so we want to pour into our students and create a school-wide family.”
“I truly love our school and community, and I’m so happy to be at Carbon Hill Elementary.” WL