Teacher Spotlight: Meet Amy Kowal, eighth-grade social studies teacher

Teacher spotlight artwork

Amy KowalMeet Amy Kowal, eighth-grade social studies teacher!

What’s your favorite aspect of your job?

What I enjoy most about teaching is the enthusiasm and unique personalities of the students in the middle school and the energy that they bring to the  classroom.  For many of my students, middle school can be a  time of great change and it may also be a difficult transition for some.  Helping my students  both enjoy and succeed in eighth grade while sharing  my own love of American history with them has  been the greatest joy of my career.

I often tell my students that history teachers are storytellers and that our best stories are handed down from those individuals who have been impacted personally by a specific historical event.  I remind them that their personal experiences during the pandemic will surely give them their own story to tell someday and one that may be shared with future generations.

Why do you believe in and support the work of the Minisink Valley School District and what it does for the community?

I have spent much of my adult life teaching at Minisink and grew up in the Minisink Valley  District.  I have so many fond memories of my school days here and still have family who reside in the district.  Just recently, the district celebrated “Warrior Day” in honor of the Class of 2021 and it reminded me of all the wonderful sporting events, concerts and productions  I attended or participated in as a student here  and how the school is the absolute center of the community.  I recall watching the middle school’s amazing production of “Frozen Jr.” shortly before the pandemic really hit us last year and feeling so proud of the students and privileged to be able to  attend.

How has  the pandemic refocused the work you do every day?

What I’ve learned from the pandemic is that students absolutely need interaction with their teachers. As a teacher I’ve had to embrace new methods to deliver  the  best instruction during these times.  I actually feel energized by some of the new methods and tools.  None of this has been done alone, as I have worked closely with a wonderful group of colleagues using a team approach to revamp our lessons.

Of course these are not perfect times and there is always room for improvement  but looking back,  we have come so far in the last 13 months. The students have also risen to the challenge and for that I am incredibly thankful.  In class right now they are learning about World War II and the American home front and we talk about how Americans were encouraged to do one’s part for the war effort during a most difficult time.  That is exactly how I feel  so many students are behaving right now as they navigate the pandemic.

What do you want to say directly to the community about the importance of your work?

First , I would like to thank the community for believing in the work we do here at Minisink and supporting us through all times.  Our success wouldn’t be possible without your support.  We have all come together in a difficult and uncertain time to reach a common goal and for that I am so grateful.

Most importantly we have many young people to thank — our students — because for them to master an entirely new way of  learning and to accept all the challenges that have come, is an unbelievable feat!  Imagine if you are older and  being able to turn  back the clock. Now, try to picture yourself in eighth- grade, or any grade, living through a pandemic.