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High school Teacher of the Year

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By Tom Wilmoth

    When she went to college, Ameka Cruz thought she was headed for a career in business or accounting—possibly even computer science.

    But since 2001 she’s found herself in the classroom, now as a mathematics teacher at Jefferson Forest High School. On Thursday, Cruz learned she had been named as                  the  Bedford  County  High School Teacher of the Year.
    “I’m amongst such great teachers, to be recognized amongst them is an honor,” she said.
    Though teaching wasn’t something she planned on, she knows it’s right.
    “It’s something you have to be called to do,” Cruz stated. “It’s something you have to be really passionate about.”
    She began her teaching career at E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, which led her to pursue a graduate degree from Lynchburg College in special education. That also led her to serving as a part-time lecturer at Liberty University.
    “I truly feel fortunate to be able to use my love of teaching mathematics to nurture confidence and success in children,” she wrote in an essay.
    Cruz believes a teacher must have a knowledge of multiple learning styles.
    “An outstanding teacher is one who has the uncanny ability to inspire otherwise apathetic students, and makes all students feel valued when they enter their classroom,” she stated.
    That means being “able to convey to your students that they can be successful.”
    “These kids come from so many different backgrounds, so many different experiences that they come into the classroom with,” Cruz stated. “You have to be willing to meet them where they are and show them they can do anything they put their mind to.”
    She said though no students are the same in the way they learn, they can all find success. “My daily goal is to be able to combine my mathematics skills and my knowledge of various instructional strategies in order to help students experience success in mathematics.”
    And her reason for teaching? “The kids,” Cruz said. “They make me laugh—and cry. It’s all about them.”