Amara Alexander: Committed to education
Innovation and exploration in the classroom led Amara Alexander, sixth-grade teacher at Horizon Elementary School, to receive the $25,000 Milken Educator Award.
In its 30th year, Milken Educator Awards recognize educators in early- to mid-career for their achievements and potential. An initiative of the Milken Family Foundation, the awards inspire individuals across the United States to excel in the world of education with $25,000 unrestricted gifts.
In presenting the award at Horizon, State Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance said, “The Milken Educator Award is a direct reflection of Amara Alexander’s passion to generate excitement about science and interest in STEM-related careers among her students.”
“We’re so proud of Ms. Alexander for this wonderful recognition of excellence,” Horizon Assistant Principal Tammy Jones said. “Her enthusiasm for science is evident and contagious when you walk into her classroom.”
Alexander is “keeping it in the family,” because her mother, Dr. Tammy Alexander, also received the Milken Award in 1998. Tammy Alexander, an adjunct professor, works at Alabama A&M University’s Regional In-Service Center and develops professional learning workshops for North Alabama teachers.
“My mother played a major role in my years as a teacher,” Amara said. “To begin with, she served as my professor though the teacher program at A&M. I can honestly say, ‘She taught me everything I know.’” Amara earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education at Alabama A&M, where she was a Bulldog cheerleader.
Every year on April 22, Amara and Tammy teach an Earth Day lesson together. “We have a blast, and my students enjoy it as well,” Amara said. “To me, my mother is a teacher’s teacher. She creates engaging lessons, and you are hooked from the beginning.”
After receiving the award, Amara said, “I became more motivated to better my expertise as a teacher. Naturally, I am a ‘go-getter’ and constantly enhancing my craft. No one wants a boring teacher.”
Amara said she embraces the importance of cross-curricular lessons. To evoke creativity, Amara’s students read “What to Do With a Box” by Jane Yolen. “In this STEM lesson, students were given a box to use their imagination and engineering skills to create something unique. It was amazing to watch students work together on their designs. Students wow’ed me with their final products,” Amara said.
During a unit on weather disasters, students learned real-life struggles by reading “Ninth Ward,” a young adult novel about Hurricane Katrina. While teaching about roller coasters, Amara uses the book, “Roller Coaster,” by Marla Franzee. “While reading, students can relate to their own experiences and recall their favorite rides. The book also allows students never exposed to a roller coaster to experience a roller coaster through books,” Amara said.
Amara supports Project Lead the Way, the Madison district’s initiative to enhance STEM education. She leads fifth- and sixth-graders to think critically, be creative and work collaboratively. “For example, students have to create a toy using certain constraints given to them. As a teacher, it is wonderful to watch students work together to achieve a common goal,” she said.
As a program advisor for GEMS (Growing and Empowering Myself Successfully), Amara helps to inspire young ladies with the need to excel academically. “As a former member of GEMS, I saw how the women impacted my life, so I wanted to positively impact other young girls,” Amara said. GEMS members meet monthly with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. across the Huntsville/Madison area. “We discuss money management, health and wellness and college and career readiness,” she said. GEMS “creates compassionate, caring and community-minded young women by actively involving them in service learning and community service.”
Amara also volunteers as leader for Girl Scout Troop 1055, a Cadettes group, at First Missionary Baptist Church. She coordinates Horizon’s extended-day program.
Previously, she taught language arts at Sparkman Middle School and Mill Creek Elementary School. She grew up in the Buckhorn/New Market area.
“The Milken Educator Award changed my mindset for me to continue challenging myself as a professional and to seek out best practices for the classroom.”