Your Neighbor: Meet Ashley Koontz

Published 12:05 am Thursday, May 16, 2024

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By Mandy Haggerson

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — As another school year is ending, Ashley Koontz reflects on the irony of how things often turn out exactly how they’re supposed to. The elementary school science specialist at Morgan Elementary was very close to a life that didn’t include educating and inspiring young minds. 

When Koontz headed to the University of Alabama to become a future teacher, she realized quickly that she had placed out of most college math courses. 

“If I decided to get my degree in teaching, that meant I would have to take some additional courses, and I had already gotten excited that I wouldn’t need to have any more math in my life,” Koontz joked. “I had grown up in a household where technology was not allowed, and my parents didn’t even have cable TV. I had always thought education was where I would end up, specifically AP psychology. However, after my first semester, I elected to get my degree in communications with a minor in psychology.” 

After four years at the University of Alabama, Koontz came back to the Winston-Salem area to figure out her next steps.

“Ironically, when I came home, I started teaching at Forsyth Tech Community College. It was tough then to find a job in public relations, and there was a need as a learning lab instructor,” Koontz said.

Realizing that she wasn’t quite done with her own education, she decided to go back to school. 

“Just like I had done with my undergraduate studies, I wanted to go somewhere that no one knew who I was,” Koontz said. “I decided to get my master of arts in journalism and mass communication.”

She was accepted to the University of Georgia in Athens. 

“I had also started dating my future husband, Adam, when I headed off to grad school,” Koontz said. “It helped us really get to know each other even more as we communicated through distance.” 

After Koontz completed her program, she headed back to her hometown. 

“I hadn’t planned on coming back; however, Adam was working for Novant, and we got married not long after I graduated from graduate school,” Koontz said. It was still tough to find a public relations job in the Winston area in 2010. It’s not like how it is now. Things have really changed for the better in our area in that field. I ended up working for the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina, assisting the executive director with financial assistance for the area’s after-school programs and summer camps.

“I stayed in that position until Adam and I expanded our family with our two sons, James (11) and Rillan (9).”

Koontz always knew that once the boys got older, she would go back to work outside the home. 

“COVID-19 made things interesting in our household like it did for many others,” Koontz said. “Rillan was supposed to go to kindergarten, and I had planned to go back to work outside the home then, too. However, we did virtual academy for both kids that year. After that first year of COVID-19, I decided to start subbing so I could dip my feet back into things and see what options were out there. I also wanted to be on the same schedule as my kids. had applied for a teaching assistant position at Morgan Elementary and ended up getting picked up to do that about three years ago. After a year, I came into the role that I’m in now as a specialist teacher.

“What I love about being a specialist teacher is that I get to work with 700 plus kids in all grade levels. Some of the specialist programs include art, science, and physical education. The school has a STEM teacher also, and I get to supplement that program and it’s not dictated by state standards and gets to be more experimental. In my classroom I have a call back to my students. When I say, ‘Science is like magic‘ — they respond with, ‘But real.'” 

Koontz loves showing students how science is real magic in her classroom. 

“Just recently, with the first graders, we discussed bubbles by including the science behind them,” Koontz said. “When you do that with kids, it makes it doable and understandable. It also is something they can relate to in real life. When experiments work, and you see the light switch click with the kids, then you know you’ve done it right.”

Koontz has always appreciated working with peers who have shared her passion for inspiring and educating. 

“I really like the people that I work with each day,” Koontz said. “At Morgan there is such a supportive administration that makes it possible to turn complex topics into something that’s doable and fun. It sounds cliché, but it doesn’t feel like a job.”

As she continues to wind down her school activities, she’s looking forward to helping kids in another capacity during the summer. 

“I’ve served as the league representative for Clemmons West pool for several years,” Koontz said. “It’s a great group of kids and helping with logistics to make it possible has been something I’ve enjoyed doing. We’ve got a heater for our pool this season, so we’ll be getting the kids in the water soon. It’s a fun way for the kids to get exercise and a sense of teamwork, too.” 

If Koontz isn’t in a classroom, at one of her children’s activities or helping with the Clemmons West swim team, she can be found reading a book. 

“I love to read. I wish I had more time to read, but I absolutely love it,” Koontz said. “And if I have any extra time in addition to that, I just love to cross stitch. Free time is a rare commodity right now, but I know this time with my kids being young is fleeting, so I don’t mind that one bit. Like most parents, I understand it’s the hardest but most rewarding job you’ll ever have.”