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Ole Miss Student Returns as Tenacious Educator, Activist

By Tegan Wylde
Hottytoddy.com intern

Amber Nichols-Buckley teaching. Photos Courtesy of Amber Nichols-Buckley.

The University of Mississippi lives up to its expectations of being unforgettable when a former student returns to form her career. UM English Instructor Amber Nichols-Buckley shows her love for Ole Miss by giving back in and out of the classroom.

Nichols-Buckley graduated from Ole Miss with her bachelor’s in English education in 2004 and two years later completed her master’s. She grew up in Olive Branch but now currently resides in Tupelo.

Her experience teaching at Miami University of Ohio — where her now-husband was getting his MFA — unleashed her drive to teach in a college classroom. Nichols-Buckley taught English 111 and 112 which was similar to Writing 101 and 102 at Ole Miss. The class sequence at Miami focused on more traditional essays, analysis and research, which she did not carry over to Ole Miss. She decided to give her classroom at Mississippi freedom to express their thoughts freely.

Amber Nichols-Buckley

She knew she wanted to give back to her students what she had received from Ole Miss, which goes far beyond receiving an education.

“I remember how freeing I found the college classroom; I was no longer hindered by curriculum dictates that stifled my teaching,” she said. “I could have students explore work that was important to me, and to be honest, in this environment of academic freedom, I felt myself flourish as a teacher.”

Nichols-Buckley values the relationships she builds with her students, even out of the classroom, by constantly offering an ear to listen.

“I love sitting with students, a cup of hot tea in hand, talking about a reading or sharing an excellent piece of student writing or talking about why studying rhetoric is a skill that reaches far past the boundaries of our little classroom in Lamar Hall,” she said.

Nichols-Buckley is not only an educator, but she is also an activist. She involved herself with Ole Miss’ FASTrack program, which supports first-year students with their transition from high school to the college landscape.

A former FASTrack student of Nichols-Buckley, Malia Carothers said, “Mrs. B” was a wonderful teacher and an even better friend.

“The year I had her was the same year the racist comment, made by a former student at Ole Miss, about hanging went viral on Facebook. Mrs. B made sure that all of the students were able to voice how we felt. With her great discussions, she comforted and consoled our feelings. I will always be grateful for her enthusiasm to make me and my classmates the best people we can be,” she said.

Along with FASTrack, Nichols-Buckley is this year’s chair of the Transitioning to College Writing Symposium, which brings middle, high school, community college, and university writing educators from across the region together to learn and talk about writing at every level of education. The two-day event was implemented in October 2018 and had approximately 125 participants.

“I found planning this two-day event very rewarding, as these conversations are essential for educators at every level to have,” she said. “Since I have experience in the public schools and at the university level, I feel like a bridge between those two realms, and I think the more conversations that we as educators can have, the better experience we can provide for our students.”

Nichols-Buckley is constantly searching for more efficient ways to educate her students along with improving her own writing. Her biggest concern is making sure her students are comfortable in the classroom. She often puts herself in her students’ shoes and reflects on her time as a student.

“I remember the anxiety of being in college for the first time, the self-doubt, the need to prove myself and the struggle of being the best in class in my high school,” she said. “I find myself with my students using their reflective spaces to talk about their first-year experience, how they find themselves struggling, triumphing, figuring things out.”

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