WCHS teacher brings history to life for students
Sharing the human stories of people in history so they’re not just a picture (or a name) in a book helps Dr. Amber Sergent make the past come alive for students at Woodford County High School.
“Flaws, strengths, the whole bit – that, to me, helps tell the story of history because we can connect that way,” she says.
Sergent was one of three Kentucky teachers to receive an Earle C. Clements Innovation in Education Award, which recognizes the state’s best educators in history and/or civics.
Now in her second year at WCHS, Sergent says giving her students opportunities to talk among themselves about what they’re learning gets them excited about history.
“They learn so much from each other. And then you just become a bit of a tour guide to kind of guide them along the way, answer questions, fill in gaps, elaborate,” she explains. “And when you don’t know the answer you’re honest with them. ‘I need to look this up. It’s a great question. I need to look it up.’”
WCHS senior Sarah Goforth describes Sergent – Dr. S to many students – as different in a good way. Short lectures, group projects and individual assignments give her students three ways to absorb information in U. S. history class, says Sarah.
Reflecting on the pressures junior year, Abigail Cheek, also a senior, says Sergent kept their class challenging, “but (she) let us have the support to learn and grow…”
The class learned about the Holocaust from a different perspective. “The way she covered it,” explains Cheek, “was more emotional… as opposed to the ways that we’ve seen and read about it in the past.”
Maybe that’s why the letters from students nominating her for an Earle. C. Clements Innovation Award meant more to Sergent than receiving the award.
“I have learned as much from them as all of my degrees put together,” says Sergent. And students appreciate having a teacher who finds a way to connect with them.
“That makes her a great teacher,” says Sarah. “Because she cares about us and she wants us to actually know this stuff, and that makes you want to know it.”
Sarah was never a big fan of social studies, “and I liked her class,” she adds.
By getting to know her students, Sarah says Sergent bridges what they’re learning about in class with individual interests – women’s rights or (in her case) scientific and technological advances of the time.
With bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in history, Sergent has taught at the college level (Gateway Community College and Northern Kentucky University), was an oral historian and an associate producer on history programming for KET when she found her niche while teaching dual credit students at the university level.
“It’s amazing to work with these young people. It really is,” says Sergent of her choice to become a high school teacher.
She currently teaches 11th grade U. S. history at WCHS, and lives in Versailles with her husband, Ryan, and their two sons, Ian and Tyson. “I like to live in the community where I teach. It opens up a lot more opportunities,” she says. And she doesn’t have a long drive on her late afternoons or early mornings at WCHS.