Finding Her Voice: Amber Smith DiPasquale ’02

When Vermont Academy Alumni Association Vice President Amber Smith DiPasquale ’02 first learned that she was admitted to Vermont Academy, her reaction wasn’t typical of most admits. “I actually cried,” she says. Growing up in Saxtons River and the recipient of a scholarship, she worried that she wouldn’t fit in with others at the school. Luckily, her mother knew better. “She knew it was the right place for me, and that it would set me up for the future she wanted me to have.”
From day one, it turned out her mother was right. “Literally from the first day, I felt at home,” says Amber. “I didn’t feel like the ‘local kid’ because the day students were never treated differently from the boarders. It felt like a family, no matter if you lived on campus or not.” Immersing herself completely in campus life, Amber spent many late nights on campus for bonfires and theater rehearsals and always felt welcomed by all.

Like many alumni, Amber says she wouldn’t be who she is today without her VA experience. “It enabled me to be successful, to know my worth, and to have faith in my capabilities.” Though she was a shy child, her experience with VA’s theater and chorus programs helped bring her out of her shell and see transformative growth. She participated in numerous stage plays and musicals, and directed cabarets in her junior and senior years. “Getting into performing helped me find my voice,” she says, “and gain a huge amount of confidence in public speaking.” 

In her field, that’s absolutely vital. Today Amber is the vice-principal and head of the humanities department at Cortona Academy, a small specialized private school in northern Virginia where she has taught since 2008. She says the faculty she had at VA inspire her work every day, and it’s impossible to pick a favorite among them, though she cites Mr. Hibler and Mr. Graham as the reasons she pursued her career in history, and says she still uses Mr. Reigleman’s in-class activities in her own classes.

“I always wanted to be a teacher, but VA taught me that being a good teacher isn’t just about what I teach my students. It’s about being a good human and imparting that on them,” says Amber. “I follow the lead set by the adults from VA who helped mold me, and I try to do them proud each day.” 

And of course, she has made them proud. After excelling academically and socially at VA – in addition to theater, Amber played field hockey and was a founding member of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance – she moved to Virginia to study at the University of Lynchburg, graduating with a bachelors in European History, and then studied the topic further for her masters degree from George Mason University before taking that first job at Cortona Academy. She married her husband, Matthew, in 2009. The couple has built a beautiful life, which she says is blessed with godchildren and wonderful friends, including many from her time at VA, like Stephanie Saunders Kaebnick ’02, who stood beside Amber at her wedding.     

Looking out to her 20-year reunion this summer, Amber reflects on her VA experience fondly. “When I tell people about the wonderful time I had in high school, they look at me like I am insane. It seems that most people didn't love their time in high school like I and my fellow alumni did,” she says. “I owe so much to the school, and I really feel like I will never be able to repay that. VA takes kids, and makes them good people.”