Hi SciCheer fans! Samantha here to introduce you to the newest Science Cheerleader. Amber cheered in college at the University of Tulsa and continued to pursue her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. Amber is a researcher and professional speaker encouraging kids to follow their dreams!
1) What turned you on to STEM and when?
I was a high school teacher and cheer coach and wasn’t satisfied with the outcomes of several of my students. Some students would excel after high school and others would flounder. They might have had the same GPAs, family involvement, and socioeconomic status, but something else caused some to fail and some to succeed after high school. I sought out training to improve transition services for my students and met a leader in the field who encouraged me to pursue my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Special Education Transition and gave me fellowship to complete my studies. I focus my research agenda on students with disabilities, develop assessments, conduct research, publish manuscripts, and conduct professional development based on the research results.
2) Why did you try out to be a cheerleader?
My older sister was a cheerleader and would use me to try the stunts she was working on with her squad at a young age. Little did I know, this would put me at a great advantage when I was a little older. I idealized my sister and hated being small for my age. I found my size it was an advantage in cheerleading and even more so once I started co-ed stunting.
3) What does it mean for you to work in STEM?
The goal of my work is to have more people with disabilities in the workforce and leading the lives they want. I use research and statistics to learn which skills employers want, then find a way to teach those skills to students while they are still in high school. I break down concepts like self-advocacy and self-determination into teachable parts.
4) How do the qualities that made you a great cheerleader benefit you in your STEM career?
I give presentations all over the nation to disseminate our research results. Many times, I have been complimented on my presentation style and confidence. Cheering in front of thousands gave me the courage to speak in front of hundreds.
5) Best cheerleading experience?
Meeting my husband is definitely my best cheerleading experience. We met at a Calloway’s Cheernastics, were stunt partners in college, and have been stunting together ever since.
6) Best STEM-related experience?
The week we launched our first online assessment was amazing. We received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education for our project. After five years of data collection, analyzing results, and working with our webmaster to ensure the algorithms produced a usable profile, we finally had a product that would help students and teachers.
7) What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Have courage. Don’t be afraid to do something just because it’s difficult, it takes longer to learn, or you will have to go to school longer. The time will pass either way. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t reach your goal, which is where you are now. You are living the worst-case scenario, so you might as well go for it.
8) What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I am the proud daughter of a professional armwrestler.