Willie Brown Middle School teacher motivating students through sports, health class
Aumornai Edinburgh knew she wanted to be a teacher since the second grade. When other kids were at summer camp, she was in the classroom watching her mother teach students in special education. As a teacher, her mother gave students a voice they rarely had.
This year, Edinburgh started her second year teaching at Willie L. Brown Middle School, where she’s piloting a 12-week, rotating health class for all sixth- and seventh grade students. She’s also the school’s athletic director, and coaches the girl’s basketball team.
“As I got older, I realized I really love kids and I want to do the same for them - giving them a voice,” said Edinburgh. “That’s why I work in this neighborhood, and communities very similar to this, because I feel like these kids oftentimes their voice isn’t heard.”
Edinburgh, who was born and raised in Sacramento, earned basketball scholarships for San Francisco State University and San Jose State University, where she studied education. After graduating with her master’s degree, she was hired to teach at Willie Brown.
During the school’s inaugural year, which included only sixth-grade students, Edinburgh taught physical education. She also started the athletic department and rallied students to pick the school’s mascot and colors. They decided on the Warriors, and blue and orange to match.
This year, she expanded the school’s athletic offerings by adding soccer, baseball and softball. She’s also coaching the girl’s basketball team again. Last year, the team reached the playoffs even though they only had two experienced players, but lost in the first round to the winning team.
“It was a nail biter until the end,” Edinburgh said.
Like teaching, Edinburgh’s love for basketball started when she was a girl and her brother built a basketball hoop for her using a chunk of wood and an old tire. She soon found a girl’s basketball camp, and WNBA player Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks became her role model.
“That was the foundation for me,” she said. “I always say that I started from humble beginnings.” Edinburgh says she favors basketball because it pushes you individually and as a team.
In health class, Edinburgh plans to teach students about mental and emotional health, bullying, trauma, family diversity, LGBTQ awareness, and sex education. To start, she’ll instruct students on how to build community and trust in the classroom so they can discuss difficult topics.
“I’m proud to work at Willie Brown, and I’m proud of the students here,” she said.