Amy Perez ('07) | Secondary Education

Amy Perez

Teacher of the Year, Region 4,
Aldine School District, Texas

When Amy Perez ('07) received Teacher of the Year Award for her region, she was surprised - in fact, shocked might be a better word. But the award simply represented the fulfillment of Amy's daily commitment  to minister wholeheartedly to those whom Jesus called "the least of these."

"I'm very excited because I feel an inner peace about it. This is where He wants me," she said. "You just know when God takes over. There is no doubt - you just know that's right where He wants you."

Amy teaches social studies to middle-school children in a Title 1 school. The area is low in income, high in crime. Many teachers would try to avoid the job or rise in the ranks to escape the problems they face daily. Not Amy. 

Ministering to those who don't have

"God's called me to minister to the ones who don't have. I love every minute of it. It's a challenge," she said. "I thank God every day for the opportunity to be in their lives."

Amy understands what it's like to come from a difficult situation. She grew up in a neighborhood much like the one in which she teaches today. That experience lets her relate to her students in a way that they can appreciate and identify with.

"I know what it feels like to be there. I know what it feels like to think that no one cares," she said.

For Amy, a scholarship from the Go Tejano society let her leave her community and enroll in a small, Christian-based school in northwest Texas that she'd never even visited before. She stepped onto ACU's campus for the first time when she arrived as a freshman, and never looked back.

"It's just a great atmosphere," she said. "I loved what I saw - the people were so nice, I loved the environment."

In the Education Department, she worked with other students in small class settings where she could benefit from individual interaction with her professors. She soon discovered, however, that her professors were more than just teachers - they were also mentors and friends. During Thanksgiving of her freshman year, she stayed in Abilene because the drive home was too long. One of her professors invited her and several other students over to his house for the holiday meal. 

Passing on a passion for learning

"That to me was the quintessential experience," Amy said. "They opened their doors and showed the love of Christ to me."

During her years at ACU, Amy also learned how to transfer her passion for history to her students, sparking a similar enthusiasm for the understanding the past. She learns from previous teachers and professors, thinks about what her kids want and need, and uses interactive methods to get her kids involved in history on a personal level.

"It's about them. It's about how they learn," she said. "If they enjoy it, they're going to learn it. You have to bring it to life and get them involved."

One of the most transformative experiences of Amy's career came during her semester of student teaching, when a sixth-grade girl confided that she'd been cutting herself with razors. Shocked, Amy questioned God about what to do. Over the next few months, she worked with the girl, teaching her to journal in order to deal with her pain and working on raising her self-esteem. On the last day of her student teaching experience, the girl thanked her and hugged her goodbye.

"To me that was the moment that said, 'This is where God wants me. I'm doing the right thing," she said. "I would rather do this than anything else."

 


How it all began

"I was never supposed to be a teacher. My father envisioned a lawyer, and my mother prophesied that another preacher had been added to the family roster. Perhaps one of these could have been - after all, I had learned that it was better to nod than to argue about the subject. My life's course, however, was altered when modern reality struck, and my newly single mother found herself alone with four young children. Suddenly, dinner conversation turned from graduation dates to electricity due dates, and I learned early on that reality can be very grim indeed."

- Excerpt from Amy's Teacher of the Year essay 

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