Ambrosia Johnson

Describe your journey to becoming a teacher. What’s the path that led you to Relay?

“As a child, my plan was always to become an attorney. Though I’m a person that always sticks to the plan, during my Junior year at Bryn Mawr College, I took a class titled “Critical Issues in Education.” One evening, as I read “Unequal Childhoods” by Annette Laureau, I read about the reasons as to why so many inner city children coming from low-income backgrounds are unsuccessful in their adult years. As I highlighted the text and wrote notes in the margins, I realized that these students were actually me. I then wondered, “How am I different? Why have I been provided with opportunities that were not presented to my peers?” It was then that I realized that the only difference in my story was that I had someone (in my case it was my mother), who was determined to ensure that my story would be different. She researched schools in the suburbs of Brooklyn and financially sacrificed to have a van pick me up each day and drive me an hour to my new school. From that day on, the quality of my education was different. Because the quality of my education was different, my outcome was different, drastically changing my narrative. It infuriated me to see how unequal the education playing field is in the “Land of the Free”. Why should any child have to travel so far out of their neighborhood to receive a high quality education? Instead of sitting in my fury, I decided to do something. When I found North Star Academy, I was introduced to other educators who shared my mission and purpose. Through North Star, I had the opportunity to be a student at Relay Graduate School of Education. It was here that I had the privilege of learning techniques that were as strong as my mission.”

What is one way that Relay has impacted you?

“I’ve always been mission driven. However, in this work, being mission aligned isn’t enough. You can have the best intent with the sweetest heart, but if you don’t have technique that matches, you will unfortunately fall short. Relay has taught me taxonomies and practices that have made me the educator I am today. Two years ago I was a student at Relay, and I now have the opportunity to serve as an adjunct professor for elementary school teachers. Relay gave me the tools to become a great educator, and now Relay is currently giving me the tools to become an effective professor. For that, I am forever grateful.”

Who are the people in your life that have made your journey as an educator possible?

“Since I was a little girl my mother has been my biggest cheerleader. She’s never missed a dance performance, was always front row at all of my plays, on the other end of the line when I need advice, and has always encouraged me to follow my heart, despite others thoughts. When I doubt my capabilities, she’s the one that reminds me to be fearless in the pursuit of what sets my soul on fire. Whenever anything happens, good or bad, my mother’s number is the first I dial, and my Nana’s number is dialed second. Nana plays the role of a wise best friend who holds the box that contains every last one of my secrets. I am so incredibly grateful for both of them. They’ve taught me how to love. They’ve taught me how to pray. They’ve taught me that nothing worth having will ever come easy. I owe every ounce of my Black Girl Magic to them; there would be no me, without them.”

What do you do to continue developing your craft?

“To continue developing my craft I am an avid videographer. I still film myself often and spend a great deal of time analyzing video footage and comparing it to data. I watch lessons that target certain Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and compare them to my students’ data when working on questions regarding that particular standard. This helps me to see what works and what doesn’t work. By watching my own video footage, I’m also able to see myself using various teaching techniques in the moment. Similarly, I’m able to see what works and what doesn’t work in different moments of the day. After analyzing footage and comparing it to data, I then make action steps for myself with the hopes of growing from good to great.”

What is your signature teacher move?

“My students always know when I’m coming, because I not only teach with urgency, I walk with it too!”

What keeps you doing this work?

“Though I’m making gains in my classroom, and the students at my school are performing above where they “should” be, there are so many inner city students who go to school each and everyday, but are NOT learning. I continue to do this work because it is my mission to touch as many students as I can. As one educator, I know I can’t target every single child. However, I now understand that coaching teachers effectively can have a tremendous impact on student learning. When passionate teachers are effectively coached, best practices are spread across states, across cities and into classrooms all over the country.”

What do you want others to know about your students?

“I want others to know that I teach 30 beautiful girls who inspire me each and every day. As a woman of color, it fills my heart with so much love and happiness as I look out at all of their different shades of brown. At the tender ages of 5 and 6, they have such a deep passion for social justice and are always eager to learn more about their history as a people. Their eagerness to learn more comforts me because I know that their generation will be one that truly goes against the grain as they fight for what’s right, and not what’s common. Academically, they push themselves each and everyday, and they’re learning what it means to work through academic adversities. They speak loudly, or are working towards doing so, because they understand that their voice matters and it should take up space! I am honored and privileged to teach such amazing girls. They’ve taught me more about myself than they’ll ever know.”