For someone who never wanted to be a teacher, Amber Bunce has done a pretty good job of working her way up the educational ladder.
The new assistant principal at Red Top Middle School started the career she didn't want 19 years ago as a substitute teacher at, ironically enough, her current school.
"In August 2000, my cousin, who was an administrative assistant at the then-South Central Middle School, called me in dire need of a substitute," she said. "I was in dire need of my next car payment. I graduated four months earlier with a history degree — the car payment was important. I went reluctantly to help her out because I was adamantly against being a teacher."
But Bunce said she found that day to be "truly amazing, and I can’t even begin to tell you why."
"I left that afternoon with several more days of substituting lined up and went home to begin researching the path to certification and graduate school," she said. "I enrolled in Berry’s master's and certification programs that January. I worked that entire school year as a substitute and was offered a teaching position for the following year with a provisional certificate. I didn’t know I wanted to work in education. I love school and love being a student but never imagined how much I could love teaching – and especially teaching middle school."
Name: Amber Willis Bunce
Occupational title: Assistant principal, Red Top Middle School
City of residence: Adairsville
Education: 1996, Adairsville High School; 2000, Samford University, Bachelor of Arts in history; 2002, Berry College, Master of Education in middle grades education; 2012, University of West Georgia, educational specialist in instructional technology; 2018, University of West Georgia, Tier I leadership certification
Family: Husband of 15 years, Brian; and sons, Corbin, 14, a freshman at Adairsville High, and Drake, 11, a fifth-grader at Adairsville Elementary
The Daily Tribune News (DTN): When were you named assistant principal of Red Top Middle, and how were you notified?
Amber Bunce (AB): I learned of an AP opening on July 3. It was my son’s 11th birthday, and I was prepping for that. When I learned that the position was at Red Top, I applied. [Principal] Dr. [Wes] Dickey called to set up an interview the following week. The timeline was very short, given the start of school barely a month away. Dr. Dickey called me following the interview and asked, “Would you like to be an assistant principal at Red Top Middle School?” What followed then was my attempting to sound very professional in accepting the offer and physically trying to keep my feet on the floor. I was so humbled and excited. I was board-approved on July 15 and began at RTMS on July 18.
DTN: Why did you want the assistant principal position, and what are your job responsibilities?
AB: First, it was RTMS. I began my career in this building. I found my calling within these walls. It has always felt like home. Secondly, it was the opportunity to be a part of the leadership team. The people I am so lucky to work with and learn from are amazing. I have worked with Dr. Dickey in a variety of roles over the last five years. He is an extraordinary leader and educator. He has a passion and excitement for making students passionate and excited about their potential and their futures. In my role outside of the classroom, I have had the opportunity to work with [Assistant Principal] Jason Rood in many different settings as well. Watching his leadership at SCMS over the last several years makes it obvious how much he believes in these kids and illustrates how a good administrator serves the school. I can learn from the very best. As for my roles and responsibilities, I have been primarily focused on scheduling and the instructional aspects of RTMS. I work closely with the sixth- and seventh-grade teachers and students. I will be aiding in some of the testing duties and responsibilities through the year.
DTN: What other positions have you had within the school system, and how long were you at each?
AB: I began as a substitute teacher in 2000 and was hired at South Central in 2001 as the GATEWAY (gifted program) coordinator and teacher. That first year, I taught all three grade levels and five different subjects. I served as yearbook adviser for two years and cheerleading coach for two years. I was at SCMS for five years before transferring to Adairsville Middle. In 2006, I started at Adairsville Middle School as a sixth-grade ELA [English language arts] teacher. During my eight years at AMS, I taught all three grade levels, served as GATEWAY coordinator, served on the leadership team and helped to introduce our first learning management system to our school. It was as more technology was increased in the school – and plans to open the new building as a 1-to-1 facility with all students receiving laptops – that I discovered a new passion in incorporating technology into instruction. In 2013, a new position was created at the system level – instructional technology specialist. I applied and was not chosen. That following summer, 2014, I was asked to become a second instructional technology specialist and focus on our middle and high schools. I was in that position, supporting our middle and high school teachers, for five years.
DTN: What has been the most memorable thing that has happened regarding the school system since you’ve been an employee?
AB: The most memorable thing regarding the school system in my 18 years has to be the excitement that has been ignited through [Superintendent] Dr. [Phillip] Page’s leadership. There is an excitement throughout all of our schools and staffs that I have never before remembered. The community feels it, too. We have hundreds of volunteers to help our first-graders become stronger readers. Our community raises thousands of dollars through the Backpack Buddies 5K and Dancing with the Stars. System leaders are outside of the walls of the central office and are in our schools, talking and working with our teachers and our students. There is a connectivity throughout our system that has impacted every single building.
DTN: Why did you want to become an educator?
AB: I think this question is the hardest because I didn’t. I never imagined myself as an educator. I was going to be a lawyer. I decided that in second grade. Then I discovered that I didn’t enjoy reading law books. I wanted to research and study history and anthropology. I looked into joining the Peace Corps. Becoming an educator actually found me.
DTN: How would you describe yourself in three words?
AB: Nerdy – I love to learn and “chase rabbits.” I use my thesaurus app far more than I should ever admit. If I don’t know the answer – or enough information on a subject/topic that I hear about – I will read and search. A joke in Sunday school is how I reference my “nerd Bible” with all of the commentary.
Enthusiastic – It is a bit of a joke among many teachers that I have worked with that I have a tendency to send emails containing far too many exclamation points. I’ve come to the realization that when I do get excited, I speak and act in exclamation points. My enthusiasm is more than that, though; I try to use Colossians 3:23 as a guide for everything I do in life. It reads “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.”
Willing – I don’t think anyone that I have worked with over the last 19 years can say I haven’t offered to help however I could. Right now, with the newness of this position and complete cluelessness (it feels) that I am in midst of, I often just ask, “What can I do?” “What do you need me to do?”
DTN: What would the title of your autobiography be and why?
AB: First, it would be a collection of short stories and tales of things that I have experienced. But it would have to be titled “Are You Still in School?” It has been a running joke in my family that I do like to go to school. My youngest son once asked me, “What are you going to be now?” during a class I was taking. I love going to school every day. Seriously. I am one of those people that is lucky enough to truly love their job. I could foresee that in years to come, as I approach retirement – or dare I say it, go back to school – being asked this question with a head shake. After finishing my last certification, I sat in my living room and told my family I would not be going back. This certification was enough for anything that I might ever find myself doing. My sons and husband nodded without much conviction. Brian, my husband, smiled and told me that was fine but that it was also fine, too, if I changed my mind.
DTN: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
AB: For those that know me, this may not be that surprising, but in college, I actually did have to weave a basket after soaking the fibers underwater and have learned medieval swordsmanship to earn a PE credit.
I am also a beekeeper, thanks to my husband’s interest, and now have miniature goats in my yard, too.
DTN: If you could visit any period or event in the past, what would you choose and why?
AB: I would love to see the lost colony of Roanoke and to learn what actually happened to it. The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the colony has always been intriguing to me.
DTN: Do you have a bucket list, and if so, what is the one thing you most look forward to accomplishing?
AB: I want to go to Cuba. I was supposed to go this summer. I would have been there in June, but then there was this travel ban. And I ended up in the Bahamas instead. I can’t complain – it was the Bahamas – but I do want to see and experience Cuba.
DTN: If you could have dinner with any historical figure or celebrity, past or present, who would you pick and why?
AB: I would love to work with Mother Teresa. I don’t think she would actually want to have dinner. I would think we would serve others. I pray that I can remove myself to the point of only seeing others. Sometimes I think we get too overwhelmed at the magnitude of tasks in front of us. There are so many issues and problems and obstacles that we are discouraged before ever beginning. Mother Teresa once made the comment that if you can’t feed 100 people, feed just one. I won’t ever be able to reach them all. I will be trying with all that I have, but I do know that I will reach at least one.