Ms. Amy Leftwich Wins Teacher of the Year


Ms. Amy Leftwich, Department Chair for special education classes and World Geography teacher was greeted with plenty of applause upon being named the 2021 “Teacher of the Year”.

By Amy Simon, Reporter

Ms. Amy Leftwich, Department Chair for special education classes and World Geography teacher was named the 2021 “Teacher of the Year”. She was greeted with plenty of applause as well as a bouquet. 

Ms. Leftwich started her higher education at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, studying international relations with a minor in French. After graduating, she went back to school to get a master’s degree at Teachers College, located in Columbia University. From there, she began teaching English is a Second Language classes, while substituting at various elementary schools. In January 1996, Ms. Leftwich began teaching at Westwood as an educational assistant and later took the steps into becoming a certified teacher. After becoming certified, Ms. Leftwich began looking for elementary school teaching positions, but later began teaching at Westwood as a behavioral teacher.

“I had very much of a liberal arts foundation with no idea even when I graduated what I wanted to do with that,” Ms. Leftwich said. “When I came back from traveling, I still had that travel book and ended up looking into teaching and didn’t realize I would do it for as long as I have, but initially, my interest in teaching was trying to find a way to continue traveling to make money. I ended up getting my master’s in comparative international education. While I was learning in New York City, off the side I started substituting in elementary schools. That was my hands-on experience with teaching which led me to getting my certification.”

As department chair for the special education department, Ms. Leftwich oversees a department of teachers and teaching assistants, manages the annual budget, acts as the campus contact to field parents over any questions or concerns they may have about the services Westwood provides, collaborates with the district monthly to address uprising issues concerning special education, shares the information with the department and campus administration, and communicates with the middle school staff to plan for students transitioning to Westwood. In addition, she collaborates with counselors to create final schedules for students. She also works very closely with Lead/College Counselor Ms. Holly Browning to develop master schedules for teachers within her department. Although there are many aspects to her job, Ms. Leftwich most enjoys collaborating with her students and persisting through challenging times.

“Building relationships and making connections with students is my favorite part about teaching,” Ms. Leftwich said. “Every year there’s something new and exciting. The challenges are also new, especially with this year, for all the teachers, we’ve never experienced something like this. Trying to reach students is harder because there are all of these barriers from students making connections.”

In addition, Ms. Leftwich enjoys working closely with students who have learning or emotional challenges. She says it motivates her knowing that she made a difference in someone’s life.

“When I get to witness a student connect with learning in a way that wasn’t happening, and see the personal growth unfold, that motivates me,” Ms. Leftwich said. “Knowing that I can make a positive impact on the path of my students’ journey beyond Westwood matters more to me than whether the academic content is remembered. Teaching my students to self-advocate, to make their best effort, to persevere through challenges, are some of the life skills that I hope my students will carry into adulthood. Being in a position to shape and inspire the next generation is an exciting part of teaching.”

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