Meet Amber Miles (she/her), a kindergarten teacher at Ritter Elementary School and a proud South LA native. We spoke recently about how she fosters college awareness and readiness in her young students while drawing inspiration from her own family’s educational values and experiences. Read more below.

Education runs deep in Amber’s roots. Growing up, attending college was more than a priority for Amber; it was an expectation instilled by her parents. They impressed upon her that her primary job was to be a student, shaping her mindset to appreciate the significance of an education. While she didn’t initially aspire to become a teacher, her parents supported her in whatever career path she chose. 

“Both of my parents have college degrees but I actually went to college at the same time as my father, who enrolled in college and graduated one year before me to prove how important college was,” says Amber. 

As a National Board Certified teacher with eight years of experience teaching kindergarten, Amber firmly believes in the pivotal role elementary education plays in preparing students for college and future career success. “I want my students to be exposed to college at an early age like I was,” she says. Amber sees herself as the first step in introducing her students to the concept of college because young students are highly receptive.”

To foster a growth mindset and a love for learning, Amber emphasizes the importance of questions and introduces the concept of a growth mindset from day one. She shares that creating an environment where mistakes are embraced rather than feared helps students remain open to exploration and new learning experiences. And it also is in line with her class motto: Mistakes help us learn. Additionally, Amber leads by example by acknowledging her own mistakes, demonstrating that even adults make mistakes. “That’s how I help my students have a positive attitude towards learning and supports long-term educational goals, including college attendance.”

For Amber’s students, the concept of college is built into the curriculum. They hear about college throughout the school year. Activities include college chants, creating college pennants, and joining virtual tours on College Fridays. “I like to start with Loyola Marymount University, that’s where I went to school.” She covers a wide range of topics in her lessons like small and large colleges, what makes them unique, their different locations, and the colleges known for sports. These initiatives help students become familiar with college and many continue to discuss it months later.