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Photo by Mike Leiby/The Independent
Photo by Mike Leiby/The Independent

'Sassy' Sequoia teacher inspires students to learn

Posted On: 2017-08-15 09:15 AM
From White Mountain Independent...

LINDEN — It isn't easy for a teacher to truly connect with their students.

All too often "adults" and adolescents are on different pages in life with different priorities.

So when an educator and those being imparted the knowledge therefrom find common ground on which both prosper, it is a positive for everyone involved — including society because that is what ultimately benefits.

The news recently has sometimes been filled with stories about low teacher pay in Arizona, a teacher shortage due to the lack of pay, and a lack of dedication to educating the young for the future. But there are still some teachers who, in spite of low pay, long hours, little recognition and constant refresher courses to stay in the 21st century education loop, "hold the line" day in and day out.

David Embrey, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Sequoia Village Charter School in Linden, is among them. He makes a solid connection with his students every day he is in class, inspiring them to learn.

"He always has his sassy pants on," one of his students said.

But make no mistake about it: Embrey does not do it alone. The students in his classes have to put in equal effort for it to happen.

So how does he inspire them to want to have that connection? By treating his students as equals in the classroom and by trying his best to make it an "I want to" rather than a "I have to" situation, he said.

"He cares (about us)," Anastasia Swenson Payne said. "He uses technology, which I really like, and he's kind of cool."

"Sometimes he is super serious, not really scary, but really serious. And other times he is just having fun and plays around with you," a female student said. "He's not one of those super strict teachers who makes you do this or that and doesn't let you talk. Like in the morning, he gives us time to talk."

"He lets us have fun," another girl said.

Embrey takes strong charge of his classroom, but he does not stifle his students' enthusiasm.

For example, when The Independent was at the school interviewing him and some of his students, comments such as "He's Bigfoot," and "I think he's the biggest carnivore in the world" inspired was a wry smile from the teacher who is also a local pastor.

That might possibly, in part, account for his patience with his students.

But when students started getting a little too boisterous and loud, he gently told them they needed to rein themselves in a bit, which they did.

Self control versus mere obedience.

That is just one example of the symbiotic relationship between Embrey and his students that all too often evades educators focused mainly on control and academics.

He keeps a keen eye on academics, but Embrey also understands the value of individual creativity and expression.

What about the nuts and bolts of teaching, though? Embrey takes his commitment to academics extremely seriously. That is why he makes himself available to his students on a virtual 24/7 basis even out of the classroom.

How? Through connectivity.

Dylan Shelley, 14, said Embrey can be reached almost any time day or night, online or by phone.

"He answers questions, gives us advice and helps with assignments whenever we need him," he said.

Lucien Keeble, 14, called him "The Math Guy" who is always there when called upon.

Embrey believes in his students knowing the basics intuitively before relying on technology to do it for them. For example, he requires them to know how to solve math problems on paper using their brain before he allows them to use a calculator.

"How do you solve a problem, how do you make a budget, or any of those kind of things, unless you know how to do it?" Embrey said.

Embrey has only been teaching at Sequoia Village for a little more than a year. He started teaching in 2000 after getting his education degree from State University of New York in 1997.

What makes him stay in teaching in spite of the likelihood he could make more money doing something else?

"I wanted to share what I know to help (young people) be successful in life," he said.

A simple, but eloquent statement.

Just like Mr. Embrey.

Reach the reporter at

Photos: Photo by Mike Leiby/The Independent