By Emily Williams
“Far and away the best prize life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing,” is a quote from Franklin Roosevelt that has been the foundation for Amber Benson’s career in education.
Benson, a business education teacher at Mountain Brook High School, recently was recognized as the Alabama Business Education Teacher of the Year by the Alabama Business Education Association.
“I desire for students to gain the confidence and motivation to find this prize in their own lives,” Benson said.
Earning the title is both a high honor and a chance to reflect on everything her students and colleagues have accomplished throughout her 12 years of teaching.
“The business students at Mountain Brook High School never cease to amaze me with how they step outside the box to expand their knowledge in the business industry,” Benson said. “They are the reason I am able to succeed as a teacher.”
Her path to become an educator began when she was a child, though she had forgotten the dream for a while and pursued a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and family business at Auburn University.
“While (she was) in college, my mother found my childhood diary in which I wrote, ‘When I grow up I want to be a teacher!’” Benson said. “This probably came from the fact that I’m an educator’s daughter.”
She took the writing as a sign to pursue a master’s and educational specialist degrees in business education.
Ever since her first year of teaching, she has been a member of the ABEA, and its community of business educators have helped expand her knowledge and challenge herself for her students.
“No matter what career field a student is interested in pursuing, they will benefit from the real-world lessons learned in business education, which is what I love most about the profession I’ve chosen,” she said.
At MBHS, Benson teaches courses on business and personal finance, business principles and management.
In addition to what is laid out in the lesson plan, Benson said that it has been her personal goal to mentor and motivate her students to take ownership of their learning and find ways to apply lessons they are learning in their communities.
In addition, she oversees the Leadership Mountain Brook program at the school alongside her fellow department faculty in the school’s Incubatoredu.
The Incubatoredu course is entrepreneurial. Students create and fully develop their own products or services with help from real-world entrepreneurs and business experts who serve as coaches and mentors guiding student teams throughout the process.
“I’m extremely grateful to teach courses I’m passionate about such as finance, leadership and entrepreneurship, but I get the most excited about teaching the time value of money concept,” Benson said. “My students often look at me crazy, but if I can give them a little motivation to start saving at a young age, I feel as though we have established an important foundation for their future.”
Overseeing the Leadership Mountain Brook program, Benson works to encourage a collaborative environment between students and the Mountain Brook community by building relationships with local government and Chamber of Commerce officials as well as business leaders and community members.
Those connections are then used by the students as they create and implement community service projects.
According to Benson, the program showcases the essence of the authentic learning environment that she is able to provide through the Mountain Brook school system. Not only do students find a sense of ownership in the community, but Benson has cultivated one as well.
“It is remarkable how the city of Mountain Brook, the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce and the Mountain Brook community freely gives of their time and resources to support their teachers and students,” Benson said. “I am motivated by the trust given to me from this community.”