Hopefully, in our formative years we all had an adult who positively influenced us and meaningfully impacted our lives. A teacher, coach, neighbor, community member, etc. who we could look up to as a mentor outside of our immediate families. Someone who would guide with encouragement and be quick to correct us when needed as we learned right from wrong.
Grain Valley South Middle School Teacher Amanda Chrisman has warmly garnered the nickname of “Mom” at times from her students. A moniker she has earned through trust and wears with pride. Upon interviewing Chrisman for this story, a student approached her after school with tunnel vision while Chrisman was talking with colleagues to ask her a question. The student didn’t care that Chrisman was engaged in dialogue, she proclaimed that she knew Chrisman would know the answer to her question and that’s why she needed to ask her.
Chrisman fulfills the role of instructor, role model, active listener, authority figure, and “Mom” at times in her job as a special education teacher. The fifteen-year veteran of public education has spent her entire career with the Grain Valley School District. Chrisman also attended Grain Valley Schools from kindergarten through graduation and is proud that she was able to return home as a professional.
Grain Valley News recently received a nomination to do a Community Profile on Chrisman. Grain Valley South Middle School Principal Jim Myers was happy to learn of Chrisman’s nomination and was quick to shower her with praise.
“Amanda is an excellent educator in every sense of the word. She is a highly skilled classroom teacher who works tirelessly to meet the individual needs of her students. She will do whatever it takes to help them be successful,” Myers said.
“While her instructional skills are exemplary, what makes Amanda truly great is the fact that she is a genuinely outstanding individual who cares very deeply for all the students in her care. This allows her to connect with students and their families in an authentic way. They trust her and know that she is on their side every step of the way.”
Myers continued, “At the risk of sounding redundant, I can’t say enough good things about Amanda. She is highly respected by her colleagues and is viewed as a leader in our building. In addition to her teaching duties, Amanda volunteers to help organize and coach the Special Olympics team in Grain Valley. I would just like to say that Grain Valley South Middle School is a better place because Amanda Chrisman is part of our staff.”
Chrisman paused and thought deeply when the question was posed to her about the most rewarding thing about being a teacher.
“It’s definitely not the money. Just kidding. I think knowing that every kiddo can learn and figuring out how, along with finding the motivation they need to see the light bulb go off in their head is exceptional. Then getting to see the kids later down the road after they’ve reached their potential and still having a connection with him from the past relationship that was fostered is rewarding,” Chrisman said.
The challenges of being a teacher also weigh on the mind of Chrisman.
“Kids see themselves through what they see in social media. Teaching kids academically must be balanced with social and emotional learning. Social media is a barrier and a lens through which students allow themselves to be evaluated or judged. Trauma that kids may endure and combatting against low self-esteem has been a change in our culture,” Chrisman said.
Being referred to as “Mom” by her students doesn’t faze Chrisman. Wearing that mantle proves how comfortable Chrisman is in her skin as an educator.
“I am their school Mom. That’s my job, especially as a special educator. I’m there go to person or safe place when they are having a rough time. Working hard to build relationships makes it feel cool to be called Mom. To me it’s endearing to be considered with that highly respected name,” Chrisman said.
Another big part of Chrisman’s life is Special Olympics. The head coach sees the volunteer opportunity more as a reward more than work. Seeing a kid practice, compete, and grow on a playing field suited for them brings a smile to Chrisman’s face. She doesn’t mind being known as “Mom” their either.
Chrisman was also mentioned for her faith-based work when nominated for the Community Profile in Grain Valley News. The member of Crossroads Church works with youth in their Quest program on Sundays. Teaching seems to travel everywhere with Chrisman regardless of her geographic location.
“I enjoy that in our community everyone still has the chance to know your name. We are still small enough in that regard. My friend teases me that every time we go somewhere you run into someone you know. She’s from Grandview and I remind her that I live here and teach here. It’s kind of like being in a glass bowl, but I love it regardless of whether I’m having a good day or bad day and wouldn’t want it any other way.”
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