WEAC member Amy Vatne Bintliff, a teacher at Oregon Middle School in Oregon, Wisconsin, is one of five winners nationally of the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Southern Poverty Law Center. She and the four others were selected for using their talents to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations and promote equity in their school communities all year long.
According to Teaching Tolerance:
Amy brings her deep commitment to human rights advocacy and multiculturalism to her day-to-day work as a reading teacher. She is also a researcher and writer who believes strongly in listening to the voices of adolescents. She practices this belief by creatively incorporating the Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework (ABF) into her curriculum and restorative justice-based discipline planning.
Bintliff sought training as a human rights educator through The Advocates for Human Rights and has facilitated restorative justice circles since 2003. Her circles impacted students so deeply that some of them petitioned the school for more circles, which are now used throughout campus and are available to all students. Bintliff is also the author of Re-engaging Disconnected Youth: Transformative Learning through Restorative and Social Justice Education.
In a video interview with Teaching Tolerance, Amy says, “When we look at engagement and disengagement, there’s not going to be a program to purchase that’s going to heal these kids. It’s going to be the things we do in our classroom that build connections.”
She says some of her students come into her class labeled as struggling readers “and leave sometimes exceeding the scores of their peers.”
“Research has shown me that if I follow the students’ voices I’m going to be successful in my work,” she says.
“We try to let students know that learning is fun and they are readers, that they can comprehend things; they just need the keys to help them unlock.”