When she saw the hallways of her school plastered with posters and balloons walking into work one morning, it stopped a Greenwood teacher in her tracks.
That was how Amber Ploutz, a second-grade teacher at Isom Elementary School, learned she had been named her school district’s teacher of the year — an honor she never expected. Now, she is in the running to be the state’s teacher of the year.
“I go in every day and do what I do for the kids. I don’t think about winning awards, so it was a big surprise. It’s kind of overwhelming,” she said.
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Ploutz, who has been teaching at Isom Elementary for more than nine years, is one of those teachers you want your children to have, co-workers say.
“She’s one of those teachers who just truly goes completely above and beyond to make sure her children have exactly what they need to meet their potential,” Isom Principal Sondra Wooton said.
Ploutz created the only elementary school drama program in Greenwood schools, writing and directing two drama productions per year. She’s secured thousands of dollars in grant money. And she’s spearheaded two annual student essay contests for Earth Day and Veterans Day.
For her, the reward is in finding ways to engage as many students as possible through creative projects and schoolwork.
“I think a great teacher doesn’t think in terms of, ‘What standards do I have to meet?’ Some kids need someone to give them encouragement, to be that positive voice, or have a chance to be creative or to use technology. A good teacher sees that. It’s not what test they have to take tomorrow, it’s thinking of what they need to be a success,” Ploutz said.
Ploutz, who has been teaching for 11 years, learns by observing her students, both at work and at play.
“Kids don’t learn the way adults learn. I watch how they interact with each other, like when they’re running or playing a game. If we move, they’ll get it quicker,” she said.
“There’s more than one way to do everything.”
This year, 112 students participated in her plays. Ploutz puts on one play for second and third grades, and another for first, fourth and fifth grades at the school. By mixing the grades, the older students can mentor the younger children, she said.
“It gives them the opportunity to really shine. Some of them may not necessarily shine academically, but the stage is their place,” she said.
Her enthusiasm for kids and finding new ways to get through to them has earned her the highest compliment a teacher can get — she’s the teacher you want your child to have, Wooton said.
“She’s just one of those teachers who comes along and she’s joyous and excited. Kids love being in her classroom,” Wooton said. “She’s a wonderful teacher leader for the school, and it’s all done in a very humble way. She’s so passionate about the work she does and it’s never about her, it’s always about the children. She’s never looking for an accolade.”
Ploutz credits her maternal great-grandmother, Margaret Murray, with instilling a passion for education in her at an early age.
“My great-grandmother taught me how to sew. She was the first one who taught me how to read. She ignited that spark and started me on all these things,” Ploutz said.
“She grew up in a different time, but she would always tell me how she had wished she’d gone on to school to be a teacher. She taught me so much. Because of her, I pursued that as a career choice.”
After more than a decade of teaching, it hasn’t gotten old for her at all, and she still looks forward to each school day, she said.
“I just think I’m going to school today — I don’t think of it as work. There’s always something new to do and something to try. You never know when someone is going to have that ‘aha’ moment. Everyday is different. I’m very lucky I found my niche,” she said.
Name: Amber Ploutz
Work: Second grade teacher at Isom Elementary School
Honor: Named the Greenwood schools teacher of the year
Education: Indiana University, class of 2005
Family: parents Joseph and Twila Ploutz and three sisters, Ashley Hatton, Alysia Prunier and Stephanie Ploutz. The whole family resides in the Noblesville area.