By Jessica King
At East Texas Children’s Therapy Clinic, the atmosphere resembles a play ground more than a medical center. Young patients scoot around the hallways, play super heroes, and share stories about school, all while at physical therapy. That’s the environment that Amanda Storer, physical therapist assistant and professor of physical therapy at Tyler Junior College, creates and the passion that she pours into her occupation.
Storer’s career in physical therapy began with an assignment her senior year to write an essay about an occupation she was interested in pursuing. In the interest of working in pediatrics, she dove into the world of pediatricians, but everything fell flat for her. Boring. So Storer she went to her teacher for advice, which lead to an aptitude test. “Suited for physical therapy,” the results said.
Unsure of where her passion lied, she explored physical therapy. Storer did her research through conversations and shadowing with a physical therapist in Henderson, Texas her hometown and where she attended high school. The simple paper quickly turned into direction for Storer. Her pursuit of a career in physical therapy was based on the paper, Storer said.
After graduating with her bachelor’s in physical therapy from Centenary College in Louisiana, she applied to various physical therapy schools while taking a gap year to work at Disney World as a merchandise hostess in the Disney College Program. During her year in Orlando, she received acceptance to Texas Tech’s Physical Therapy program, but again, everything fell.
“I was very unhappy in Lubbock. My parents told me that it was probably because I had just spent time at the happiest place on earth and now was in Lubbock. I had to make the decision to stay for two and a half more years and be miserable or try something else,” Storer said.
Her experience at Texas Tech was sculpted by her instructors infamous first words, “look around, half of these people will not be here by the end of the program.”
Storer recalls it was as if the directors were setting the students up to fail. “Let’s see who we can get to fail the fastest,” Storer said.
Storer decided it was time to say “goodbye” to Lubbock and head home to Henderson, where she learned about the physical therapist assistant program at Kilgore College. She applied and was accepted.
“It was so much better. So much more encouraging and helpful,” Storer said.
She explains her instructors at Kilgore College were drastically different than her instructors at Tech, beginning with the class introduction: “look around, there is no reason that every one of you should not be here by the end of this program.”
The encouragement she received from her professors, Storer said, shaped her to be a better educator.
“I strive to be motivating and available to my students now like my director was then,” Storer said.
Storer has been employed as a professor of physical therapy for five years, being an adjunct for three and full-time for two. She is also working to earn her master’s in education from the University of Texas at Tyler, which she will graduate with in May.
Storer’s inspiration for diving into education was taking in physical therapy students for 6-week one-on-one clinical observations as a clinical instructor. She said because of the students who shadowed her, she always looked to move toward teaching. So, she hopped on by being a lab assistant and climbing the totem pole to the full-time position she holds now. Storer, in addition to her career, is a devout Christian. She said the ability to have a local mission field where she can show her students the grace and love Jesus in their education is what she loves most about teaching at TJC.
“I get to serve [the students] in a way that keeps God in the center of my life,” Storer said. She notes that one of her favorite parts of being an instructor is establishing post-graduate relationships with her students that allow her to continue to lead them to look up to God in the same way they look up to her.
And her passion has not gone unnoticed.
“Having Ms. Storer as a teacher has made me realize that my dreams of being a traveling PTA is attainable. She has really inspired me to not set any limits on where I go or what I’m able to do to help others,” said Bailey Richardson, a first-year physical therapist assistant student at TJC.
Further, among all of her professions that fill up her calendar daily, Storer is an avid traveler.
“Traveling is actually how I destress,” Storer said. “It’s something to look forward to and break everything up.”
Storer’s love for exploration began with a trip to Disney World when she was eight with her mother. From that trip on, most of Storer’s childhood was spent road tripping across the country and camping because her mother could not afford hotels as a single parent.
“I’ve always had a travel bug,” Storer said.
But it was Storer’s high school graduation trip to Cozumel that would inspire her travels and her pursuit of a college education, in which she was the first in her family to receive.
“If my single mom could do it, imagine where I could go if I could get an education,” Storer said.
Storer has since traveled all across the globe, not only for recreational purposes, but to serve others. Storer has traveled to Bulgaria, Japan, and Sierra Leone, Africa to perform physical therapy and provide treatment for children whose families do not have access to health care. She is also on staff with Autism on Seas, which combines all of her passions: advocating for children; for patients and their families, providing education and resources for families, and traveling.
Storer’s best piece of advice for aspiring physical therapists is to “get involved. That will make your career more satisfying.”