"I became an educator because I was pretty sure I could change the world."
It's not every day that you meet someone with both the conviction to dream big and the courage to make those dreams a reality. But when Aimee Cribbs, Ed.D., submitted her entry to PeopleAdmin's Inspired2Educate program, I knew instantly that we had uncovered a special educator who deserved to be honored.
Inspired2Educate honors and celebrates our nation's educators, while at the same time inspiring young people considering a career in education. The program calls for current educators to share stories of a K-20 teacher, administrator, or school staff member who inspired them to pursue education as their life's work.
Dr. Cribbs works as both a graduate studies adjunct professor at Piedmont College and as an art and health teacher at Ellijay Elementary School in Georgia. While the age range of her students varies widely, the lessons she teaches are truly timeless. Interviews with former students and current colleagues highlight Dr. Cribbs as an outstanding role model for her students and peers who works hard to instill confidence, critical thinking, and work ethic into every young mind that steps into her classroom.
This has been the case since day one, almost 20 years ago, when Dr. Cribbs began her first year of teaching. "We were her very first class out of college, and I remember we gave her such a hard time," said Paisley Brown, one of Dr. Cribbs' first students in that inaugural fifth-grade class. "But the thing that stands out to me most is that I remember she really cared, and at that time in my life, I didn't really have good home support. She looked out for me the best way she could as a teacher and always made me feel safe. Even after I left elementary school, she would still check in on me -- she even came to my high school graduation, a two-hour drive from where she lived, which was an awesome moment."
That kind of dedication and compassion made a life-long impact on Paisley, who credits Dr. Cribbs with inspiring her decision to pursue a career in education. "I reached out to her and asked if she could imagine me being a teacher one day. She was the first person I thought of when I began the decision-making process, and I told her that she would know better than anyone if I could do it," she said. Dr. Cribbs, who has remained a close mentor to Paisley for nearly two decades, told Paisley with confidence, "You can do it, and you should do it."
Another former fifth-grade student of Dr. Cribbs' remembers not only her compassion, but also her courage to bring complex issues into the classroom as lessons for her young students. "I remember once she made us jog around the school during recess, and when we got back to her classroom, some of our seats were missing and many of the students didn't have a place to sit," said Aikeem Cooper. "She then proceeded to teach us about Rosa Parks and discrimination. She wasn't afraid to bring that difficult lesson to life, and I credit her to this day for being, in many ways, my introduction to the real world."
Aikeem, who now works as a criminal defense lawyer, said that Dr. Cribbs provided him with the foundational critical thinking skills necessary to flourish in that role. "She taught us to stand out and question things and learn as much as we could about the world," he said. "She allowed us to express ourselves creatively, and gave me the confidence I needed to study law."
When asked what ultimately inspired her to become a teacher, Dr. Cribbs points to her father and aunt, both life-long educators. But she said that, without a doubt, her fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Scholz, had the most profound influence on her career choice. "I can't remember the topics we studied over three decades ago, but I can remember how Mrs. Scholz made me feel. She made me feel intelligent, important, and capable of anything I set my mind to doing," she said.
Dr. Cribbs has proven time and again that she is indeed capable of anything she sets her mind to doing. Even in pursuit of her ultimate goal: changing the world.
"I believe in myself and my ability to leave the world a better place," she said. "Twenty years and thousands of students after my first day in the classroom, I still trust that nothing has the power to shape the future like education."
When asked what advice she would give to those thinking of becoming an educator, she said, "What we do can often seem really small; in many ways, it's just one student at a time. But if you make one person change the course of their life, I mean, that's huge."
Congratulations, Dr. Cribbs, on your selection as an Inspired2Educate honoree. We are delighted to share your story, and cheer you on as you continue to change the world, one student at a time.
Kermit S. Randa is chief executive officer of PeopleAdmin, the leader in cloud-based talent management solutions for education and government. He has twenty years of executive experience leading firms in the software industry.