Amy Wong didn’t set out to become a teacher, but when the stars aligned, she heeded the call.
The former corporate human resources professional turned stay-at-home mom of twins received an unsolicited observation from a family member who thought she would make a good preschool teacher. Days later, two good friends asked if she would be interested in an open teaching assistant position at a local preschool.
“It was one of those moments where I was like, ‘Wow, someone is trying to tell me something,’” Wong said.
Wong enrolled in the classes required to teach preschool in her then home of Austin, Texas, and began work at the preschool. Three years later, her family relocated to Severna Park. She began looking for another preschool position, but instead was offered a role as an assistant kindergarten teacher at St. Martin’s-in-the-Field Episcopal School.
Now in her sixth year of teaching kindergarten at St. Martin’s, and third year as a lead teacher, Wong described the age as “magical.”
“Such a bonus of kindergarten is everything is new and everything is exciting and they’re just usually really engaged in all the learning,” she said.
Wong explained that she especially enjoys the project-based learning that occurs in kindergarten, and that teaching at a small school allows her the flexibility to make changes on the fly based on her students’ needs and interests.
She gave a recent example of leprechaun traps. It’s one of her favorite projects, but leading up to it, her class also explored rainbows and kaleidoscopes, for which the kids “went bonkers.” Wong switched gears and asked the class if they’d rather make kaleidoscopes than leprechaun traps.
“They were over the moon,” she said as she pulled a kaleidoscope out of a bag to proudly display, adding “they were just so much darn fun.”
Aside from creative projects, Wong’s favorite lessons are those regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. For Women’s History Month in March, she incorporated Ruth Bader Ginsburg and candy for an activity about pay equity.
“That sounds like a big topic, but 5-year-olds can understand that,” she said.
Tony Shaffer, St. Martin’s head of school, praised Wong’s approach.
“Everything in her classroom is simultaneously age appropriate and connected to big skills and ideas,” Shaffer said. “When I walk through the room and she asks on the spur of the moment if it's OK to use a chain of paper clips to measure my tie, the students get to giggle at the head of school holding paper clips up under his chin. At the same time, they learn that units of measure are invented by people, that the units can be added together or divided up (a tie is 14 and a half paper clips long), and that some units are better than others for making a particular measurement. It's just magic.”
Wong appreciates the opportunity to teach in a small, nurturing setting.
“We are constantly working on kindness and sharing and how to get along and interact with peers. That’s tricky business as they get older,” Wong said. “I feel lucky to teach in an environment where we can talk about those things and make it a big part of their everyday.”
The feeling is mutual.
“Amy creates a caring classroom where everyone feels like they belong and that everyone is important,” said colleague Aleigh Vancaster. “We just adore Amy Wong.”
Wong suggested that prior to kindergarten, parents should work on social skills with their children — such as putting their backpack on and off and opening a lunchbox — but the mom of teenage twins believes that the best kindergarten readiness comes from letting kids be kids.
“Just enjoy them while you can, because it goes quick.”