From Student to Faculty: An Interview with WDCS Graduate Amber Kelley
For the past two years, West Dallas Community School has been privileged to have two WDCS graduates serve on our faculty! One of those graduates, Amber Kelley, graduated from WDCS in 2005 and attended Trinity Christian Academy and Baylor University before returning to WDCS to teach Class 4 in the fall of 2014.
Since her return to WDCS she has had time to reflect on her own time as a student as well as grace us with a unique perspective and passion that only an alumna can bring. We took some time to ask Amber about her time at WDCS as a student and find out what it has been like to return as a teacher, especially now that she has a been teaching here for over a year.
WDCS: What do you remember most about WDCS?
Amber: The lasting relationships I had with my teachers and the impact that they had on my life outside of school is what stands out – whether it was praying for me, or hosting little Bible studies outside of school, or going to have lunch on a Saturday, etc. They (my teachers) took a mentoring role with me outside of the classroom. I still keep in contact with them, especially the teachers I had for third grade on up. One former teacher emailed me when she found out that I would be teaching here, “I remember in Class 3, you said you were going to be a teacher!”
Also, I remember the recitations. It’s amazing how all of it comes back and how it’s instilled in you—the Bible verses, the songs, and the hymns. Everything ties back around. I have students ask me, “You did this when you were here?” And I say, “Absolutely, I can recite The Flag Goes By.”*
WDCS: How was your transition from WDCS to Trinity Christian Academy and then on to Baylor?
Amber: WDCS really prepared me for my time at TCA. As far as academic routine, I was prepared. It wasn’t a big transition academically or even socially. There were a lot more students, but WDCS really prepared me for that and being able to transition to a larger, private Christian school. The most difficult thing was transportation because it’s a long drive, but it was all worth it. My mom had no problem and was willing to do whatever and drive every day to TCA.
The spiritual foundation that I got at WDCS followed me to TCA and then to Baylor. When going to Chapel services at Baylor – those hymns and Bible verses all came back.
WDCS really set the bar high for expectations. I went in to Baylor saying I could do whatever I put my mind to. I think I was one of the very few freshmen who decided to take 19 hours her first semester. Having that foundation from WDCS gave me the confidence of knowing that I could put my mind to anything, do more than what was expected of me, and set the bar a little bit higher for myself.
WDCS really opened the door for me and made educational opportunities outside of the public school system available. That’s what my mom valued and why she was drawn to WDCS.
WDCS: Why teaching?
Amber: I’ve always felt that this is what my calling would be. In 3rd grade, I saw in my teachers at WDCS, Kim Dorsey (now Gillespie) and also Coach Wilson, the passion they had for teaching and the relationships they were able to form and build with the students. I thought if they can build this relationship and they really care about me, maybe one day I can do that for some of the same students. The passion was built in me from an early age.
I also want to see how far education will take me. I do have hopes of maybe branching out to curriculum and instruction in the future. I know there is a need there in the education system, so any way I can help build children up to be successful and to be future leaders is great.
WDCS: What keeps you coming back to WDCS?
Amber: The relationships that I am building with the students and the support that I receive from the faculty and staff keeps me coming back to WDCS.
The most difficult part of teaching at WDCS is not being able to be “superwoman”. I care so much for my students and wish that I could fix and resolve every issue or struggle that they may encounter both inside and outside of the classroom. Recognizing my limitations in doing so is often a struggle.
But with the experience that I have gained, I have begun to feel more confident in my skills as a teacher and in meeting my students’ needs. I have also had time to slow down and reflect on how God has used me thus far, and is continuing to use me to fulfill His purposes in my time here at WDCS.
I’ve gotten to see the school from every aspect. I’ve been a student, a volunteer, a substitute and now a teacher. It feels like coming home. I love it and couldn’t see myself anywhere else.
Amber is just one of the many West Dallas Community School graduates who are beginning to graduate college and live out their calling vocationally. We hope to bring you more of these stories in the coming months. For more information on what high schools and colleges WDCS graduates attend, please visit our website at www.wdcschool.org/results.
*by Henry Holcomb Bennett