Josh Stamper is the 2020 A.L. Mitchell Young Alumnus honoree

Posted by Monica Hoel
He is the author of Ugly Me.

Josh Stamper is an educator who thought about walking away from education.

Like a lot of teachers, he was frustrated with the sorts of behaviors he saw. But something changed for Josh when he began to ask, “Why.” Why were the students in his school acting out? What could lead them to make such poor decisions? He began to wonder what was going on at home for these kids.

Once his perspective was altered, Josh’s work and mission changed entirely. He no longer wanted to leave education: he wanted to stay and make a difference. He wanted to understand what young people were facing. He wanted to help them succeed by helping them through what he increasingly realized were perilous home life challenges.

Josh Stamper is now a familiar name to those who have made it their mission to understand the effects of childhood trauma on a child’s ability to learn.

Focusing on school work is a challenge for a lot of kids:  but when you add in complications like poverty, food insecurity, domestic violence, exposure to drug-use, no access to consistent health care, and more – that puts a child firmly in the “at-risk” category.

Educators are now familiar with the Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACES, survey where students answer question that give teachers a chance to better understand what the extent of challenges are for a student. The test illuminates how young people can be adversely affected by factors completely out of their control.

Cover of "Ugly Me" by Josh Stamper.Cover of "Ugly Me" by Josh Stamper.It has become Josh Stamper’s mission to help raise awareness of childhood trauma in public education. He speaks publicly on the topic, and recently did a lyceum talk for Emory & Henry students. And he has also written a book about the topic. Entitled Ugly Me, it is a work of fiction – and yet the book’s protagonist follows the sort of path Josh has seen over and over in the lives of real students.

The book follows a young woman on her first day of 7th grade – having many of the same awkward experiences we can all remember and relate to. But this teenager has the added complications of a missing father, a mother with a drug habit, no support at home, a lack of food, and no access to clean clothing.

The story in Ugly Me is touching – and, frankly, painful to read. But it serves as a lesson that we have to look past the behavior and appearance of a child in order to understand what needs have to be addressed.

So, Josh is sticking with education, because he has much work to do for his students. And he has more work to do to educate all of us on how to better care for the youngest and most vulnerable among us.  And our education system is better for the thoughtful work he is doing.

 

The E&H Alumni Association named Josh the 2020 recipient of the A.L. Mitchell Young Alumnus Award.

  • Josh Stamper, E&H Class of 2007

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