There are some amazing teachers out there. Super teachers and many of them are right here in Chesterfield. Amber Kuper is one of those teachers and that’s why she was selected to receive the “2013 Virginia Lottery Super Teacher” award.
She didn’t win the $600 million Powerball for teachers or a $1 million scratcher, but she did win one of the most pretigious awards bestowed upon a teacher by the Virginia Lottery in conjunction with the Virginia PTA and Virginia-based The Supply Room Companies.
Mrs. Kuper, an art teacher, was surprised with the presentation at Salem Church Middle School in front of students, faculty and special guests. Her award consists of a $2,000 cash prize and an additional $2,000 classroom credit from The Supply Room Companies.
An assembly for what Kuper thought was a SOL pep rally with some awards to students was a ruse to suprise her with the award. Although she thought it strange to see Superintendant Dr. Marcus Newsome waiting in the wings, she thought maybe a woman there was going to dance.
“To my surprise a woman in a business suit appeared with a Virginia Lottery sign. And I laugh now because I thought to myself, ‘she doesn’t look like she’s going to dance.’ Then suddenly others appeared with more signs and a table of prizes.
“The woman was Paula Otto from the Virginia Lotto and she said she was here to give out an award to a teacher and said, ‘she is well known for her Living Art and Locker Art gallery.’ At this point I thought, ‘she’s talking about me.’ And I turned to my principal who was sitting across the room and he smiled and nodded at me. That was when I was sure. I just immediately started to cry. Then she called my name and everyone cheered.”
Kuper was nominated by her mother, Brenda Bush, office manager at Curtis Elementary School. Ms. Bush wrote answers to questions about demonstrating passion and commitment; innovation or creativity in the classroom and involving parents and families in their students’ education.
Bush answered the questionnaire, responding: “She stood out early in her career when she was selected as the “Teacher of the Year” after just two years on the job. In 2008 she was named “Elementary Art Teacher of the Year” for CCPS and went on to win the title for the entire Central Virginia Region. In 2009 she went on to achieve teaching’s highest credential: National Board Certification.”
A teacher from eight separate schools across the state received the award. According to Virginia Lottery officials, “In the fall, each of the eight schools where a winning teacher was honored will participate in a Facebook contest in which the public will vote for one of those schools to receive $5,000 in classroom supplies from The Supply Room Companies.”
Kuper knew months ago that her mother had submitted her name to the Virginia Lottery but didn’t think much of it at the time. Then she won.
“She always tells me that everyone needs to know there is someone rooting for them 100 percent, no matter what, and you can accomplish anything. I know my mom is that cheerleader for me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without such supportive parents.”
The $2,000 for Kuper will not be spent on a vacation or a new wardrobe, Kuper will be spending on an important asset to her family.
“My husband and I are expecting our first baby in late September, so the $2,000 prize came at the most wonderful time for us and the many expenses that accompany a new baby,” Kuper said. “Another part of the award was $2,000 from the Supply Room Companies for classroom supplies. Every teacher I know spends their own money on supplies for their students all the time, so receiving $2,000 to buy equipment and supplies is a dream come true.”
Salem Middle School got a bit of a facelift, last Tuesday, as part of the award.
“The Virginia Lottery also had volunteers arrive to do landscaping the day of the award and they did a fantastic job putting in a new stone walk way and planting flowers to spruce up the look of our school,” Kuper said.
Having fun in the classroom is one thing, but having parents join in and make the connection with their student, classroom and school can be a bit more challenging.
“Mrs. Kuper’s “Family Fun Night” at her elementary school, where families came out to view their children’s art work, watch them perform “Living Art” on stage, and enjoyed quality family fun together [was a success],” Bush wrote in her nomination. “Last year, Mrs. Kuper helped create Family Fun Night at her middle school. Students, along with their entire family, were invited to bring t-shirts to tie-dye together. The event was a huge success and will be repeated again this year. One parent remarked to the principal, ‘this is the kind of event we want to be a part of with our children.’”
Chesterfield County Public Schools received $12 million in Lottery profits for K-12 education in Fiscal Year 2012 each year. Lottery dollars are funding programs such as Foster Care, At-Risk, Virginia Preschool Initiative, Early Reading Intervention, Mentor Teacher, K-3 Primary Class Size, School Breakfast, Algebra Readiness, Alternative Education, Special Education, Vocational Education, Project Graduation, English as a Second Language, Remedial Summer School, Textbooks and more.
“I always wanted to be a teacher and always loved art, so it seems only natural to put them together,” Kuper said. “I am a Chesterfield County Public School graduate – Curtis Elementary, Chester Middle, and Thomas Dale High School – and was lucky to have many wonderful classroom and art teachers along the way.”
A love of teaching is what keeps teachers coming back to the classroom every day. Not the money or the kudos or even summer vacation. Kuper agrees.
“What I love most about teaching are the students,” she said. “I love to watch them express themselves in a creative way, I love when I see the pride in themselves for a job well done, and I love watching them figure out a learning or creative challenge. I am so proud of them every day. There are children of all ages dealing with some very difficult issues outside of school and art gives all students an outlet to express themselves.”
Kuger is the daughter of Brenda and Richard Bush and the wife of Stephen Kuper.