By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published February 9, 2017
JOHNS CREEK—The sense of community is Amber Hamilton’s favorite thing about teaching at Holy Redeemer School.
Hamilton, who teaches second grade, once walked the Holy Redeemer hallways as a student. She graduated from the school, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade, in 2004, five years after it opened.
“I love second grade. It’s almost like a perfect mixture of independence, but they’re still young and innocent and just so curious about everything,” said Hamilton.
A 2008 graduate of Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, Hamilton earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg. She also played softball there and is on the softball coaching staff at Blessed Trinity.
Hamilton always wanted to be a teacher. She believes most children go through a phase where they consider teaching as a job.
“That’s the profession that they see every day so every little kid at some point, I think, wants to be a teacher,” she said. “I have a younger sister, who is nine years younger than me. So I definitely had a teaching role my whole life with her.”
Hamilton often played school with her sister, Skylar, and their two young cousins.
“I just knew that I liked it, thought I was good at it,” recalled Hamilton.
Although she planned a career in education, she remained open-minded about where to apply for teaching jobs.
“I was in school in South Carolina so I looked in the Greenville area, I even looked in other cities in South Carolina, I applied to some Catholic schools, some not,” she said.
After moving back to Atlanta, she taught at a private, non-Catholic school as an in-house substitute.
Holy Redeemer Principal Lauren Schell placed a call to Hamilton asking if she was available to serve as a long-term sub for a third-grade classroom.
Hamilton accepted that position in December 2012 and the following two school years taught sixth-grade math and science. She is now in her second year teaching second-graders.
Her teachers are now her colleagues
Her new colleagues, including Jerry Beck and Betsy Spickard, were her former teachers.
“It was fun to see them from the other side, in a different light as a co-worker and not one of their students,” said Hamilton. “It was easy for me to ask for help. That was the role we were comfortable with.”
Beck, middle school language arts and social studies teacher, remembers Hamilton as a wonderful student, a rule follower, and one who always helped others in need.
“It was a joy having her join our staff and it only took her about six months until she finally called me by my first name,” said Beck. “It so much fun to visit her second-graders and tell them about when I used to teach Ms. Hamilton. It really makes Holy Redeemer feel like a home when alumni come back to teach.”
A teacher with 28 years of experience, Beck recognizes that Hamilton has a knack for making “lemonade out of grapes” and can find a gift or skill in any child.
Spickard teaches middle school math and said Hamilton had self-confidence as a youngster.
“She was a conscientious student who was not afraid to ask for clarification if she needed it,” said Spickard. “Amber brings these qualities to the classroom as a teacher. I could tell that she encouraged students to ask questions and be very involved in the class. I feel those skills have such a positive impact on a student’s future education.”
Hamilton teaches math, reading, writing, science, social studies and religion to 22 second-graders. It’s a special year as the children are preparing for the sacraments of first reconciliation and first Communion.
“It kind of holds me accountable, too,” said Hamilton. “Teaching them about different obligations and what we’re supposed to be doing, especially with the sacraments, it makes me accountable because how can I preach it and not practice it.”
Hamilton’s parents, Susan and Chuck, are parishioners at St. Brigid Church, just across the parking lot from Holy Redeemer. She attends Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta.
Holy Redeemer students attend Mass every Friday at St. Brigid. Hamilton said the priests and deacons of the parish are all very invested in the school’s success.
Students recently wrote on paper hearts everything they loved about Holy Redeemer.
“One of the boys in my class said his favorite part was that the church is so close,” said Hamilton.
Community bonds from her student years
Her favorite subject to teach is writing and she devotes a good deal of time to it. “They’re pretty good little writers,” Hamilton said.
Snowy day narratives, written by the students, are displayed outside the classroom. The wintertime stories show solid creative writing skills.
“Collectively, our favorite is probably science. They love the experiments and the explorations. And that’s fun for me too, just a little crazier,” said Hamilton.
Valeria Henz, 8, said Ms. Hamilton is a nice teacher and agreed that science is enjoyable. She hopes to one day be a scientist “who works with animals.”
Valeria also likes social studies. “We were studying things about landforms,” she said.
Eight-year-old Alex Knapp, busy working on math flashcards, said he can always approach Ms. Hamilton.
“If I don’t know how to do something, she’ll help me with it,” said Alex.
While she watched assistant principal Sue Kalinauskas lead a French lesson, Hamilton shared she still remembers prayers in French taught to her years ago at Holy Redeemer.
Hamilton enjoys once again being part of school traditions like middle school plays, as well as new celebrations. This school year, they held an opening ceremony for the Olympics, a candy election, and were set to celebrate Catholic Schools Week with an Atlanta Falcons pep rally.
“It’s definitely a lot of fun down here in the primary pod,” she said.
Holy Redeemer’s students are divided into three pods—elementary, intermediate, and middle. In just four school years, Hamilton has taught in all three.
Each Holy Redeemer teacher leads a Saint Family, consisting of students from each grade level. Hamilton’s family is St. Therese of Lisieux and they have participated in service projects, gathered for prayer, created a poster about St. Therese and an Advent wreath.
Hamilton loves attending sports games at Blessed Trinity and seeing former Holy Redeemer students enjoy the high school experience. Her one-time classmates from both schools like to hear about how their former teachers are doing with Hamilton providing the scoop.
“That goes back to the whole community thing. I have so many close friends still from Holy Redeemer and Blessed Trinity,” she said.
She advises those who love learning and are considering a teaching career to pursue it.
When first on the hunt for a job, Hamilton had an open mind about particular schools. She now believes after four years as a Catholic schoolteacher, it would be tough to go elsewhere.
“I definitely prefer to be in a Catholic school where we go to Mass together, and especially second grade where we’re preparing for the sacraments together and able to discuss things in the context of religion and our faith.”