Amber Stautzenberger is no ordinary educator.
She’s found a passion – one of her many – as the early childhood art and inclusion coordinator at Episcopal School of Dallas, a job that gives her the opportunity to impact students in the classroom.
(ABOVE: Episcopal School art teacher Amber Stautzenberger (above and right) has participated in 10 mixed martial arts fights. Courtesy photo)
She also has a resume unlike many other teachers – a career in mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, one she hopes to return to in 2019.
Stautzenberger has participated in 10 professional MMA fights and holds the level of purple belt in jiu-jitsu. So enjoyable was her experience in the ring, she traveled twice to Cambodia to teach self-defense to children in orphanages and safe houses.
She’s also been to Nicaragua as part of a program called Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder. There she worked with students from around the world in ways to manage environmental waste by building a fourth-grade classroom with ecobricks.
It’s experiences like these that have inspired Stautzenberger to give back in several ways – including through athletics and mixed martial arts, which is becoming more and more popular with girls and women.
“Being a female in a primarily male sport makes me feel powerful and confident.” -Amber Stautzenberger
“Being a female in a primarily male sport makes me feel powerful and confident,” she said. “I encourage more girls and women to learn a martial art – not necessarily to compete, but to learn to defend themselves, gain confidence, and relax their minds.”
Stautzenberger said she always had “a desire to be a boxer,” and pursued the dream more seriously when she moved to Dallas in 2006.
“Instead of just learning how to box, I decided to learn various martial arts such as jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and Muay Thai [a standing-striking sport famous in Thailand]. I eventually started competing as an MMA fighter and jiu-jitsu competitor.”
In Nicaragua, Stautzenberger’s group spent time on the island of Ometepe where, she said, the students built the fourth-grade classroom “from the ground up.”
“They also taught English classes, along with other subjects, and learned about Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder’s ‘five lens’ curriculum of culture, ethics, politics, economics, and geography of Nicaragua,” she said.
The trip to Cambodia was similar in its desire to help the less fortunate, this time through a non-profit called Hope for the Silent Voices. Its mission is to bring attention, resources, and opportunity to those who are neglected, trafficked, and abused, Stautzenberger said.
“I hope to one day return,” she said. “The two impact trips I went on were unforgettable. I met so many amazing people and built everlasting relationships. We were able to provide resources, support schooling, teach self-defense, self-reflect, and so much more.”
As she prepares for a return to the MMA ring, Stautzenberger will continue to spend her days molding the students of Episcopal School – a teacher with a most diverse resume.
“What I enjoy most about teaching at ESD is the students – guiding them as they learn, create, take risks, make mistakes and build character, and grow into better students and people,” she said. “It’s always rewarding to make a difference in a child’s life.”