By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Ashley Campbell grew up in Pontiac and graduated from Pontiac Central High School. She then set off to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Ferris State University, a master’s in teaching and curriculum with an emphasis on literacy instruction from Michigan State University, and certification as an education specialist in early childhood special education from Wayne State University.
This is Campbell’s tenth year teaching at Bryant Elementary School. She taught first grade for four years and has taught young fives for six. Ashely and her husband, Donte’, have four children: Austin, 5, Jackson, 4, Addison, 2, and Langston, five months.
When she’s not teaching, Campbell enjoys spending time with her family more than anything. Some of her favorite past times are travelling, reading, and exercising.
What was always written on your report card in grade school?
“Ashley is extremely quiet. I would like to hear more of her voice in class.”
What were you like in high school?
In high school, I was very reserved when outside of my social circle. While I enjoyed spending time with my friends, maintaining good grades and going to college was always in the back of my mind.
When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out?
I have very vivid memories of my first year of teaching. I started teaching in October because a classroom teacher, Roberta Heyward, was being promoted as the school’s building principal and I was hired to take over her class. I was lucky enough to be able to observe her teaching for a week and I truly feel as though that week shaped a lot of my own teaching style. Roberta was amazing! The rapport that she had with her students was what stood out to me the most. I knew that I wanted to build strong relationships with my students and to continue to offer them the same educational experience that they were already having with her. Overall my entire first year of teaching was incredible and I often found myself overwhelmed with both satisfaction and gratitude.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?
- Reflection is essential for growth. I’d suggest journaling for a few minutes at the end of each day. Even if you think that you’ll never go back to read what you’ve written down. Writing out your thoughts will help you remember them.
- It is important to attend to social and emotional development just as you do academics.
- Sometimes you will be faced with challenging behavior. Consider offering reinforcements rather than punishments for unacceptable behavior and recognize that many students will need you to provide a replacement behavior in order to eliminate a behavior that you find unacceptable.
- Be patient with your students and try to understand that each of them are coming into your classroom with a unique set of needs.
- Lastly, know that each of your students is someone’s baby! They are all someone’s entire world, so remember to treat them as such.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
My fifth-grade teacher inspired me to become a teacher. I loved everything about her. She was kind and patient. She also went above and beyond to make sure that we had a memorable year. I’ve always hoped that I would be as memorable to my students as she is to me.
What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?
The best compliment that anyone could give me would be that I have had a positive impact on their life.
In your 10 years at AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning?
The most important thing that I’ve learned about teaching is that change is a good thing. I know that change can sometimes be frightening for teachers, but I think that as teachers we have to keep ourselves informed on the best practices for educating our students. That can mean making continuous changes, but it’s worth it in the end.
Describe an average workday.
I arrive to school about thirty minutes before the bell rings. Once I get to my class, I prepare any last minute activities and set the class up for the students. When the students arrive, I greet them at the door and they complete our morning routines independently. After that, we have a morning meeting that helps build and maintain a safe and loving classroom environment. The morning meeting is a fun part of our day! It consists of a greeting, interactive morning message, movement activity, and it gives the students an opportunity to share things that are important to them. Throughout the day, we have tons of hands on play based activities in every subject. The students have snack twice a day, special area classes and of course lots of time for play centers and recess. We end our day, with a closing meeting that allows us to reflect on the day and say our goodbyes to each other.
What’s the happiest part of your day?
That’s a tough question. Young fives is a magical grade to teach and I’m genuinely happy throughout the day. I especially enjoy seeing my students’ faces light up when I ask questions that spark their curiosity. Listening to the innocence in their thoughts, predictions, and overall excitement about learning is fulfilling in itself.
I especially enjoy watching the students play in the dramatic play area. Watching the students pretend to be adults is hilarious and they are learning while they are playing.
Youtube has lots of literacy videos that I use. Also:
If you could know the definitive answer to any one question, what would that question be? That’s easy. I’d like to know exactly what we need to do to close the achievement gap!
What makes teaching at Bryant unique?
Teaching at Bryant is unique because our school is so diverse. I’ve learned so much about different cultures from my students and their families. The families at Bryant are without a doubt the best thing about the school.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year?
I wish that I’d known more about grant writing. I didn’t start writing grants until later in my creer and I can honestly say that every little bit of support helps. I have received grants from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, the Ann Arbor Education Foundation, the Karen Thomas Fund and Meemic. I am so grateful as each grant has made a huge difference in my students’ learning.
How do you keep students engaged?
One thing that I’ve learned about engagement is that not only do I have to plan for engagement at the beginning of the lesson, but I have to plan to keep my students engaged throughout the lesson. As I plan lessons, I think about the pacing and how my students would respond to each activity. I also am very intentional about making sure that every lesson is both developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive. Without those two components, the students are not likely to be engaged.
How do you show school spirit?
I have a ton of Bryant t-shirts! Also, I try to participate in most of our school’s events because I know how important it is for the students to see their teachers outside of the classroom.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
The most rewarding part of teaching is seeing the growth that the students make in both social emotional development as well as academic.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
I wish that everyone would realize how much of our hearts are in teaching. Teaching has been a lifelong dream for many of us and we genuinely love the work that we do. I’d want everyone to know that we have our students’ and their family’s best interest at heart and that we want the best for them.
How do you recharge? I like to recharge by going on vacation, staycations or having date nights with my husband.
How do you spend your summers?
The summer is when my family travels. We try to be near water as much as possible.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life?
Bryant is re-envisioning and that brings change for our staff. We are all excited to see what the future holds as Bryant begins its journey as an International Baccalaureate and STEAM infused school. As for my personal life, my oldest son entered kindergarten at Bryant this fall. He is very excited about coming to school with me every day.