Amber Dortch hones her skills as a former classroom teacher, assistant principal and district administrator in her role as principal of Hugo A. Owens Middle School. She was asked to take the helm at the school just two years ago, when it was in jeopardy of losing full accreditation. Dortch gained teachers’ trust by involving them in a system of collaborative leadership to effectively tie instruction to standards and student needs. They began using new research-based strategies, analyzing student data to drive decision-making, and developed a schoolwide lesson plan template.
Dortch is a hands-on leader, providing opportunities for staff development and collegiality as well as motivating students and increasing overall school morale. It is not uncommon to see her co-teaching a lesson in the classroom, organizing spirited assemblies before assessments or offering a pep talk one-on-one.
Her creativity, positivity and ability to rally her team around common goals of strengthened instruction and student achievement have been drivers for Hugo A. Owens Middle’s progress. Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) scores have improved in all four core areas (English, math, history and science) and the school is in good accreditation standing.
Dortch’s leadership and enthusiasm extend beyond the classroom as well. At the district level, she is often asked to serve as a professional development trainer for aspiring administrators. She is also vice president of the Chesapeake Association of Public School Administrators, a guest speaker in the educational leadership programs at Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University, and a certified National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Breaking Ranks trainer. She served for seven years as the Virginia High School League forensics director for the Southeastern district and Eastern region.
Dortch received her Bachelor of Arts from Longwood College in modern languages with a concentration in Spanish in 2000, and her master’s in educational policy, planning and leadership from the College of William and Mary in 2005. She is currently pursuing her Doctor of Education at Virginia Tech.