In December 2019, Amanda Hammersla accepted her first job as a third grade teacher at Chevy Chase Elementary School.
Hammersla, who graduated with a dual degree in elementary education and psychology, decided to become a teacher because of the impact educators can have in their communities and to be an advocate for social and emotional learning.
“When I interviewed at Chevy Chase, they had a focus on mindfulness, kinesthetic and it was mental health awareness month around that time,” Hammersla said. “It was perfect. I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”
Just three months into what she described as a dream job, Hammersla packed up her classroom and moved to virtual instruction as the COVID-19 virus became a global pandemic.
It was during those unpredictable and sometimes challenging times those in her school community knew Hammersla had something special to bring to the job.
“We have had teachers who are dedicated and make a real impact on children’s lives, and we adore them,” said Chevy Chase Principal Jody Smith. “We’ve also had teachers who go above and beyond to understand and connect with them. We appreciate those teachers immensely. But Ms. Hammersla is all of those things, and more—she is in a category all her own.”
Hammersla served as the Enrichment Boost Teacher for the school’s summer school virtual program in 2020. She created and led virtual lessons for rising third graders to acclimate them to their new school environment in 2020. She also co-led reading enrichment efforts; wrote a PTA grant, which brought an author into the classroom virtually while students asked questions; and currently helps lead reading instruction for re-teaching based on student needs.
Hammersla believes students learn best when they are engaged, valued and challenged. She inspires students to take a deep dive into reading with innovative approaches.
The 2021-2022 school year was the first time in two years MCPS students returned to in person learning full-time. Many students were returning with mental health and emotional support needs.
“Our son not only felt safe with Ms. Hammersla, but he found joy in school again because of the environment she created for him and the other students in the class,” a parent wrote in a nomination letter for Hammersla.
Hammersla has enjoyed a lot of firsts along with her students this school year—from her first back-to-school night to field trips and all the opportunities available to engage with her school community.
“I never thought that this would happen,” Hammersla said. “You are in a school building and you look at all the people who are amazing. The people around me have helped me so much. I look at all them and say, ‘You deserve this.’”