Amy Campbell is passionate about helping her students succeed, and sometimes she has trouble containing that passion. But that’s OK with her; she tries to foster as many ‘celebration moments’ in her classroom as possible.
“I am a pretty excited teacher. I’m kind of loud. I’ve had a lot of fist-pump moments. I love when I see students accomplish something that was difficult,” said Campbell, who’s in her 12th year as a special needs teacher at Helen Baller Elementary School in Camas. “If (somebody) looks at my program or my kids, they’re going to see enthusiasm and they’re going to see hope and they’re going to see learning, and they’re going to like that.”
Campbell believes her passion for student success is one of the main reasons why she was nominated by the Camas School District for the 2020 Washington Teacher of the Year award.
Campbell will compete to become the Education Service District 112 nominee for the state honor, which will be named later this year.
“I’m biased because Amy is my son’s teacher, and I see what happens every day through the lens of a father, and then I also get to see it as a superintendent,” Camas Superintendent Jeff Snell said during the school board’s March 25 meeting. “In my 22 years, I have never met a better teacher than Amy Campbell. She is truly an amazing person who inspires us all to become better educators and better people.”
Campbell is part of the school’s Structured Inclusion Support program, which serves students with a broad spectrum of challenges such as physical, cognitive, neurological communication and social deficits. However, Campbell “does not live in a world of deficits,” according to Hellen Baller associate principal Jo Candelore.
“She lives in a world of potential and opportunity. She continuously models this for our students, staff, families and greater community in all that she does and all that she is. We are all better people for having Amy touch our lives,” Candelore said. “As an advocate for inclusivity, Amy’s personal life mission is to change the way people view people with special needs. She models inclusion and integration in all that she does.”
Recently, Campbell planned an event at the school to honor of National Down Syndrome Day and encouraged people to wear outlandish socks. This led to increased discussion and awareness about Down Syndrome among students, staff and families.
“As I watched her run around the building with her Superwoman socks, I was struck by the impact of this small gesture,” Candelore said. “It is through similar acts that Amy has reached outside of the four walls of her classroom to educate and inspire all those she comes in contact with. The ripple effect of her work is undeniable.”
While Campbell acknowledged that her job can be demanding at times, she prefers to take an optimistic view of each student’s skills and abilities.
“I say, ‘Don’t come to me with your problem. Come to me with your solutions, then we’ll build from there,”’ she said. “For me it’s exciting because I keep seeing more and more solutions and not more challenges. I love that the more I work here, the more the district continues to investigate (the issues of serving) unique populations and (teaching) with equity, and that’s my heart.”
Campbell’s abilities and perspectives have developed significantly during the last 12 years, and she said she’s become a better teacher as a result.
“I think I’ve developed a lot through professional development, but also through working with all the different therapists and general education teachers I get to work with,” Campbell said. “Every year I come to the table with more ideas. Now I’m able to add to the collection, and when I get a (new) student, I’m not scared. I’m excited to try things and see what’s successful. I fancy myself as kind of an investigator.”