GRC teacher spreads love to her students

Published 1:07 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Amy Madsen was walking across the University of Kentucky’s campus while she was an undergraduate student when it hit her.

Standing in front of the Taylor education building, she suddenly decided she wanted to teach high school history.

“It just hit me,” Madsen said. “That’s what I wanted to do, and I never looked back.”

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Now, Madsen is in her 27th year of teaching. She teaches U.S. history and African-American history at George Rogers Clark High School, where she also chairs the department of social studies and sponsors the National Honor Society.

“I have the best job in the world,” she laughs.

Madsen chose to teach history because it’s the most interesting of all the subjects, well in her opinion, she said.

“I had an amazing high school history teacher at Tates Creek,” she said. “I think that sealed the deal for me.”

Madsen’s classroom is decorated ceiling to floor with posters of UK athletes or presidents, pictures of students, family, maps, books and inspirational quotes. On a typical day, Madsen gets to school about an hour or so before school starts and sometimes doesn’t leave the classroom until 7 in the evening.

Madsen, in her black long sleeve shirt and red vest, sits vibrant and polished, seemingly a poster teacher for GRC. Smiling, she pushes over a small poster board with a quote from Booker T. Washington, “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

That’s what Madsen aspires to — to be happy and spread happiness.

Madsen said she does so by cultivating relationships with her students, a trait that has won her accolades via nominations from students. Just last year, she won the Earle C. Clements award, an award recognizing Kentucky’s best educators in history and civics.

Madsen has her fair share of exciting stories she tends to share with her students, giving her some ‘cred,’ as she calls it. She said she once met rapper 50 Cent at a boxing match and she also went to the 50th Super Bowl.

Even on her stressful days, it’s the students who lift her up, Madsen said.

“My students motivate me,” she said. “If I come in, and I’m tired, I instantly am energized when I see them.”

Educators have always surrounded Madsen. Her father was a professor at UK. Her mother was a fifth-grade teacher.

At first, Madsen said she thought she wanted to be a zoologist, but things changed. Madsen didn’t always teach, though. She  briefly stepped away from teaching, taking a three-year break, and worked as a cosmetic coordinator in a plastic surgeon’s office.

“It was fun, but my heart was with teaching,” Madsen said.

Not only does Madsen love teaching, but she also loves learning. Madsen is currently working on her Ph.D. in history. She is finishing up her dissertation which she focused on the curriculum developed to teach children who were held in Japanese internment camps. She said she hopes to travel to San Francisco to study the actual documents and original curriculum used which are kept at Stanford University.

Madsen also holds a master’s degree in education and a master’s degree in history along with her undergraduate degree.

Outside of work, Madsen shares her life with her husband and four kids, her family being a continuing inspiration to her work.

“As a mom, it made me appreciate my students and all they have to go through even more,” she said. “Growing up is not easy.”

She also cites her late father as a reason she is pushing for Ph.D.

“He wanted that (for me),” Madsen said.

Madsen said she owes a lot of her growth to GRC, its teachers and leadership.

“I’m the best teacher I’ve ever been due to GRC,” Madsen said.

After finishing her Ph.D., Madsen said she hopes to teach at a higher level such as a community college.

Madsen pulls out her phone to search for another favorite quote.

“That’s it,” she smiles.

Citing Martin Luther King Jr., “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear,” she reads.

“I just wish there was a lot more love and less of the opposite,” Madsen said.

So, for now, Madsen said she’s going to keep on sharing the love.

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email or call 859-759-0015.

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