By Chelsi Baker
Times West Virginian
Marion County preschool instructor Amber Myers has been named the 2014 Universal Pre-K Outstanding Teacher.
Myers, the director and collaborative universal preschool teacher at Pierpont Community & Technical College, was selected from among 14 finalists who teach across the state.
“It shows the importance of preschool to the public, and it reminds them how hard everybody’s working. We’ve got great teachers here in Marion County,” said Stacey Jolliff, the Marion County pre-K liaison.
A team created to focus on Marion County preschools selected Myers for the nomination, and Myers submitted a short video to go along with their nomination letter.
She was announced as the winner Thursday during the Celebrating Connection Pre-K Conference in Charleston.
All nominees will get a Galaxy Tab and gift certificates from four early childhood companies, among other classroom materials. They also receive a grant to visit the Carnegie Mellon Cyert Center for Early Education.
“It was really a nice honor to be with 14 people throughout the whole state of West Virginia that are actually putting their heart into pre-K and have such a passion for it,” Myers said. “They’re all highly educated. Almost all of them had master’s degrees or are working on master’s degrees, and I think it’s really important for the state to recognize that with pre-k, the teachers are really highly qualified and are going above and beyond.”
Myers has an undergraduate Regents Bachelor of the Arts degree with an emphasis in child development, a master’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in early childhood education and a masters degree in reading, all from West Virginia University.
She has been teaching at Pierpont since 2010.
Pierpont’s preschool is a collaborative partner with Marion County Schools, so Myers follows its creative curriculum.
She also traveled to Italy twice to learn about the Reggio Emilia approach, a teaching philosophy based on respect, responsibility and community by providing a supportive and enriching environment based on students’ interests.
Myers also implements this approach in her classroom.
“They kind of choose what we’re doing in the classroom. We base all of our projects around them so they gain more with learning and they’re more interested,” said Myers.
Pierpont currently has 18 pre-K students and 14 3-year-olds.
Their goal, Myers explained, is to prepare students for kindergarten by making sure they are experienced with problem solving, they comfortable with themselves, they’re socially ready and that they’re able to work together in the classroom as a team.
The students are currently learning about ramps, slops and slides, Myers said. They have been looking at snowboarding ramps and other aspects of the Olympics.
“We actually took them out in the snow the other day and let them build ramps in the snow,” she said.
The children have also worked on projects that teach them about colors, the interstate system and bridges.
Teaching doesn’t seem like a job because it’s all she ever wanted to do, Myers said. She just likes to have fun with her students.
“When they come in and they’re so excited to be there, or they learn something for the first time and their eyes light up and they just get so excited, it’s such an awesome experience to be a part of that and watch them growing and learning,” she said.
Myers also teaches students at the college level.
She mentors and oversees Pierpont practicum students while they student teach in the pre-K classrooms, and she also brings in nursing and music students from Fairmont State University, which is one thing that motivated her nomination, Jolliff said.
“She goes above and beyond,” she said. “She’s also teaching young teachers.”
With her win in Charleston only a few days old, Myers hasn’t fully processed her honor, she said. It has been an emotional roller coaster.
“My phone has died twice because of so many people responding to it,” she said. “When you (teach) for such a long time, you forget the impact that you’ve had on people. … It’s a real blessing and honor to be able to represent our county and the kids and parents of our county.”
Email Chelsi Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @cbakerTWV.