McKay School Alumna Brittney Ambrose explains how she strives to help her students reach their full potential.

Brittney Ambrose, who graduated with a degree in elementary education from the McKay School in 2004, sees the needs of her students and wants to be a stable, motivating influence in their lives. With this goal, she has strengthened her skills by earning a master’s degree in reading from Boise State University and attending the Exxon Mobile Teacher Academy.

To help her students reach their potential, Ambrose applies Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development, which involves identifying the difference between what a student can do without help and what he or she can do with help. In her classroom, she talks about brain development and urges her students to push beyond their current levels, with her support, and to learn from their mistakes.

Ambrose explains the influence teachers have when they help their students realize the power they have within themselves to make choices and enact change. Spending hours studying the Common Core standards, Ambrose tailors her classroom lessons to her students so they can develop the necessary skills to positively contribute to their community.

“I am motivated by the light I get to see when they have reached true understanding and can teach someone else what they know,” Ambrose said. “Knowing that, to some degree, I am able to contribute to that light drives me to show up each day and improve my practice.”

Starting her eleventh year as a teacher, Ambrose has seen politics influence education. “That side is often discouraging,” she said. “The red tape [required] at times to help a child is daunting. An effective teacher is required to give entirely of himself or herself each day, and it is a job that one never clocks out of.”

By Friday, Ambrose says she’s “usually down for the count.” To be able to focus on the coming week and the strengths and needs of her students, Ambrose has found different ways to recharge. “I have found that regular exercise and a healthy diet help with my physical energy,” she said. “It’s also been important for me to develop hobbies outside the realm of education. The real golden ticket, though, is to stay spiritually well. When I am truly balanced, I am able to be fully present for my students and blessed with strength beyond my means.”