Amber Garr is a dear friend and former colleague of mine, and I don't even know where to begin. I can't even remember what first drew me to Amber, what first blew my mind about her, because when it comes to Amber, there is so much to be blown away by.
Amber is a science teacher who specializes in environmental sustainability. Her students adore her despite how much she challenges them in the classroom.
But Amber is also an accomplished dancer, a classically trained ballerina who now teaches dance to her high school students.
Oh and Amber is a published author. She has written almost 20 books, bestselling and award winning novels and short stories, mostly paranormal and mysteries. I read one of her novels in one day. I simply could not put it down. Oh and she's led writing clubs for her high school students for years, where students write together, for each other, with each other, and to help each other get published. She's simply amazing.
But what has always impressed me most about Amber is her passion to teach her students in any way she can. She teaches them science, dance, writing, life. She is always there to pass on her knowledge, her skill. She's such a giver.
I can go on and on, but I want you to hear from her. So let me introduce you to my friend, Amber.
(her one fault? she LOVES chickens! I don't know how. Live poultry scares the heck out of me!)
1. Can you share your story with us? How did you arrive at dancing, writing, teaching science?
I started my first dance class when I was four…and never quit. Up until I graduated from high school, I danced at a studio that focused primarily on training classical ballerinas. I also took jazz, tap, and modern classes, and since we were only three hours away from NYC, we would sometimes go into the city to take professional classes on the weekend.
When I was fifteen, I got accepted to a prestigious school of the arts as a dancer and needed to decide if I was going to leave my home (and state) and finish high school elsewhere. At that time, if I was going to have a career as a professional ballerina, I needed to go to this school. But I was also really enjoying science and still had a goal of becoming a marine biologist. So, I decided to forgo the dance school and focus instead on a career in science where I could always still dance on the side. And that’s exactly what I did. I basically minored in dance in college, audited dance classes in graduate school, and danced and taught at local studios every single place I moved to. I worked as a professional dancer, getting paid for shows, and I taught classes in exchange for free tuition. Those connections ultimately got me involved in coaching competitive dance teams and teaching dance at high schools.
About seven years ago, I suffered a bad injury to my back that eventually required surgery. It also meant that I had six months where I couldn’t dance at all, and another six months of slowly getting back to it. So, I suddenly found that I had a lot of “free” time after work but no creative outlet.
Enter the writing career.
After working as a research scientist all day long, writing technical papers and grants, I needed something else for my brain to do that would allow it to be creative. Since I read books all the time (mostly paranormal and mysteries), I started writing my own short stories…which led to full books…which led to full series. I now have nineteen published books, stories in several anthologies, a handful of writing awards, and a literary agent. My “hobby” quickly turned into a second job! Even when I made the switch into full-time education, I’ve continued to write, run teen critique groups, and collaborate with fellow authors. I guess it’s just a part of me now—the scientist, teacher, dancer, and writer!
2. What would you say is your mission in teaching? Or writing? Or life?
I don’t know if I necessarily set out to have a mission in life, but I’d guess I’d say my goal would be to inspire. I don’t have any children, so I hope to leave some kind of lasting (positive!) impact on those who I cross paths with at some point in my life. If I’ve inspired just one more student to become an environmental scientist or encouraged one young writer to finish that book…then I’d say that’s a good legacy to leave behind.
3. Could you share one important key to empowering teen girls?
Surround yourself with positive and influential women. For almost my entire college (internship) through professional career, I have had a female boss. And not only were these females professional, educated, and great mentors…they also worked in a mostly male-dominated field. And I don’t think I realized this until last year, but that kind of influence in my life really helped shaped the person I am today. Whether it’s a coach, advisor, mentor, or teacher, having those kinds of positive examples of success in a girl’s life can be empowering and influential on the woman she will become.
4. What is one tip you could share with moms of teen daughters?
Support their ambitions, dreams, and goals—even if they seem like far reaching ones. This year, I started working a new school in a new world where I had to start all over building relationships with my new colleagues and the students. There is this one particular girl in my first period class who was one of the first ones to ask me questions to get to know me and come into the room a little early to chat, and through these conversations I learned something that disturbed me. One day she asked, “Will I pass chemistry class?” When I asked her where this was coming from, she told me that her mother and grandmother both told her that they’d failed chemistry so she probably would too. And that just crushed me. She is a student who will not have straight A’s but there is potential in her that will certainly mean she won’t fail. So, if there’s anything I’d like to say, it’s to encourage your girls to believe in themselves. Especially girls interested in science!
5. Might you have one resource to share with girl moms?
I don’t really have a book or podcast to recommend, but I would say to try and get your girls to watch women in action. In college, I had a chance to listen to the first lady at that time (HRC herself) speak at our opening ceremony long before any of the scandals impacted public opinion. She was an amazing speaker and very inspiring. I would be sure to attend presentations by female scientists at conferences, especially those given the honor of keynote. Try to give them an opportunity to work or intern with female professionals, as I know that had a huge influence on who I am today. Let them learn from those who have lessons to give.
Thank you, Amber, for sharing your story here, for working so hard to empower girls in so many ways, and for being a wonderful friend.
Ladies, you can find Amber in southern Colorado, at Pueblo West High School, where she teaches science and coaches dance. You can find her books on Amazon, or on her website, AmberGarr.com.
Next week will bring us into November, but guess what!? I have one more Girl Empowerer for you! Because girls and moms need mentors all the time, and because there are so many great women, they don't all fit in one month!