Your Neighbor: Meet Ashley Birkins

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 11, 2024

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By Mandy Haggerson

For the Clemmons Courier

When you’re a child that grows up in a family that encourages friendly competition but is also very supportive of one other, you realize the sky is the limit with what you can do. That was true for Ashley Birkins.

“I enjoyed trying many different sports as a kid from volleyball, basketball, softball to soccer,” Birkins said. “I stuck mostly with volleyball through high school because I love being active, but I also enjoy the social component to it, too.

“My family in general enjoyed sports whether it was watching a game or even collecting baseball cards. I loved going to the stores that sold them and then coming back home and putting them in books. To this day, my dad has our collection, which he had started himself as a kid so there’s some pretty impressive ones in there.” 

If not playing a sport, Birkins enjoyed her time at Summit School from junior kindergarten until she graduated in 2000. For high school, she went to both R.J. Reynolds and then graduated from Forsyth Country Day School. Because of the confidence instilled in her during those formative years, Birkins wasn’t nervous to try to go to college all the way in Texas.

“For my first year, I went to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth,” Birkins said. “I thought that I wanted to be a rancher and live out on a big farm somewhere in Texas. I loved animals so much and being outside and active. I realized pretty quickly though how much I missed my family and being near them. After my freshman year I transferred to Clemson University because I had also liked it when I had done college tours.”

While considering education as a major, Birkins eventually decided to focus on business with a minor in sports marketing.

“I loved all the sports marketing classes that the business program offered,” Birkins said. “Having been around sports so much in my life, it was an interesting way to tie it in and business seemed like a useful career focus.” 

After she graduated, Birkins headed off to Zebulon to work for a minor league baseball team, the Carolina Mudcats to utilize her new degree and minor.

“During that time, I also met my future husband, Kurt,” Birkins said. “Because he was playing baseball professionally, we really got to know each other through distance and talking on the phone. Once we realized how serious we were, I left my sports marketing job to be with Kurt and got married.” 

Birkins always knew that she wanted to have a family, and they were excited to welcome their daughters several years after being married.

“Being a mom is the most amazing feeling. It’s everything you hope it could be and more,” Birkins said. “It’s also the most challenging, chaotic, and exhausting thing, but that’s only because your love for them knows no bounds. It’s hands down the best job I could ever ask for.”

After having her second daughter, Birkins decided to explore working with children.

“I started an art class out of my house for about 10 kids. I realized how much I enjoyed working with them, and also started volunteering at Whitaker Elementary,” Birkins said. “I worked with kids that benefited from having more one on one time. I saw the impact that made which I enjoyed tremendously. Not too long after, I went to Knollwood Preschool and worked with their readiness class. I saw myself really being drawn to education at that point. With having my own children, it also allowed me the flexibility that I needed too.” 

During the summer months, Birkins started working at the various summer camps at her alma mater, Summit School.

“Jeff Turner who runs the programs for the summer camps had mentioned there were openings for the upcoming school year (2015),” Birkins said. “I was excited at the opportunity to go back to Summit. I met with Carrie Malloy who was the director of the Triad Academy about teaching there. I was intrigued at the opportunity to become trained in the Orton-Gillingham Academy to help students with the tools they needed to learn who struggled because of dyslexia. I was blown away when I participated in Camp Pathfinder, their summer camp with students that didn’t attend Summit, but came from other schools. The progress they made in just 5 weeks was mind blowing. If I could be part of their journey to gain confidence and learn how to utilize the skills we taught them, it was such a rewarding experience.”

Summit is one of only two schools in the state, and one of only 19 in the United States to receive the Orton-Gillingham Academy accreditation.

What has made Birkins such a special educator to her students and their families has been her passion to constantly learn how to be better herself. Birkins completed the Multisensory Math 1 and 2 courses with Marilyn Zecher and is currently working through the Multisensory Math Practicum of Teaching. She is a certified Multisensory Math Practitioner and also works as a Multisensory Math Instructional Coach and Math Content coordinator for the Triad Division at Summit.

“Seeing how beneficial the multi-sensory approach is through research and hands on application, it is wonderful to implement it with students,” Birkins said. “Math has become my favorite subject to teach, and a full-time passion to try and inspire other students to love it, too.”

Birkins continues to work as a coach for other teachers in the program and is a fourth grade teacher in Triad.

“Coming up with a way to make teaching math fun and accessible for all students has been rewarding on so many levels,” Birkins said. “When you see it click for your students, you know you’ve done it right. I’ll always keep working on finding ways to help them along their learning journey. I think they appreciate when you invest in them. I am still grateful to my teachers that did the same for me.”