• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Teacher of the Year: Best wants to 'make a difference' in the lives of students

The first day of school was a different experience for Amanda Best this year. The former biology teacher didn't have a classroom filled with students eager - or not so eager - to learn about science. Best misses that daily interaction with students in her biology classes at Woodford County High School, but she's also excited about beginning a new chapter in her career as an educator hoping to eventually become a principal. Helping Best make that transition from the classroom to school administration are her varied responsibilities as data specialist/assessment coordinator/instructional coach this school year. Best, who will complete an advanced degree in June 2017 so she can pursue a career in school administration, enjoys her new responsibilities at WCHS because she gets to work with students, teachers, counselors and administrators. By tailoring instruction so it's understandable for students, and by allowing student data to "drive your instruction," Best believes teachers have a better opportunity to ensure everyone in a classroom understands the content being taught. And if the data shows a majority of those students have answered a question incorrectly, she says, that information demonstrates "a disconnect somewhere." Assessment data give educators an understanding of what students know or don't know, she adds. Best describes being named Teacher of the Year at WCHS in her final year as a biology teacher as an unexpected honor. It's recognition she especially appreciates because the award came from her colleagues, who took notice of what she was doing in the classroom. "I wasn't a teacher to get an award. I just wanted to make a difference in the kids' lives," says Best. The Kentucky native says she planned on becoming a doctor - not an educator - when she began taking undergraduate classes at the University of Kentucky. By her junior year, with the encouragement of friends, she went into the classroom as a substitute teacher to earn some extra money. "And I really enjoyed working with the kids. I enjoyed every aspect of being a substitute teacher. And I said, 'You know, I think that this is what I want to do.' So the rest is history," says Best. During her three years as a substitute teacher at WCHS, she finished a bachelor's degree in biology and earned a master's degree in secondary science education at UK. Best, who started teaching full-time at WCHS in 2010, taught advanced and general biology classes during her final two years in the classroom before becoming the high school's data specialist/assessment coordinator/instructional coach. "I feel like I can make a larger difference," says Best of her decision to move into an administrative role. "I can maybe affect more students . than just the 160 students who are in my classes." If a career in administration takes her to another school, Best says, she'll "absolutely miss the day-in, day-out interactions" she has with her colleagues at Woodford County High School. So she's hoping for a second "perfect storm" - her words - which will allow her to advance her career and, hopefully, not leave WCHS. "I really enjoy the students," says Best. "They're by far some of the best kids . When you walk through the halls, it's just a different feeling than anywhere else." (This is the third in a series of feature stories on Woodford County Public Schools' Teachers of the Year.)

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