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Six Questions with Teach For America Miami-Dade’s 2022 Excellence in Teaching Winner, Anna Shea

Anna Shea

By Courtney Salazar

June 22, 2022

Ms. Shea, middle school science teacher at Horace Mann Middle School, began her teaching career as corps member in Miami-Dade in 2019. Not only was she nominated and selected as the winner of the prestigious Al & Jane Nahmad Family Foundation (AJNFF) Excellence in Teaching Award, but she also led her students to earn the highest unit test average scores in her entire district! Anna’s innovation and dedication to her teaching practice has been an inspiration to all she has met along her TFA journey over the past two years. Anna shared with us what this moment means to her, what she’s learned over the past three years, and what she hopes to be true for her students in the future.

1. How has your Teach For America experience informed and influenced you?

Teach for America has helped me to grow as a teacher, a leader, and as an individual. From my experience during Institute, through my corps years, and now into alumnihood, TFA and its network have provided me with opportunities to deepen my understanding of educational inequity within my community and action strategies with how to rectify them within my classroom. Opportunities such as the Strengthening Schools Cohort and the AJNFF Excellence in Teaching Award have allowed me to hone my teaching practice and share my vision of educational equity with the broader community.

2. You're the most recent recipient of the AJNFF Excellence in Teaching Award. Congratulations! Please tell us more about the innovations you used in your classroom that led to this accomplishment.

I designed a STEM enrichment program that would be conducted after school and available to students of all grade levels– STEMpowerment. The vision for STEMpowerment was for it to be 1) an educational space for students to conduct the hands-on activities that are not always supported by in-class curriculum and 2) a mentorship program where HMMS middle schoolers can connect with high school/college students and professional adults working in STEM fields. The STEMpowerment program at Horace Mann Middle School has opened the door for HMMS students to envision a life of possibilities outside our school walls in the two years since its inception.

4. What do you want to be true for students and teachers in the classroom?

What I want to be true for students in the classroom is that they are exposed to opportunities that inspire them to find their strengths. Through real life applications of content, hands-on learning, and collaboration, students are motivate to persist in their educational journeys and translate content learned in school to their lives outside of the classroom. My hope for teachers is that they are given the resources and autonomy to be able to provide such opportunities to their students.

5. Reflecting on your own career, what do you believe is your biggest accomplishment or proudest moment and why?

The best way to learn science is to “do” science, so I had to be creative during the 2020-2021 school year when I taught dual-modality for the entire year. I adapted labs for students to be able to participate at home with materials around the house, utilized online simulations when appropriate, and discovered new online resources to increase engagement. As a result, my students earned a 31% passing rate on the Science FSA, which was comparable to the last year that the test was taken in 2019. I was able to share these strategies that had worked in my virtual classroom by sharing my lesson plans through a district-wide resource hub and by leading two professional development sessions for 50+ teachers around the district.

6. What advice would you give to current corps members as they continue to shape their careers and students’ lives?

My advice to current corps members is to keep your "why" as the driving force of your decisions. Throughout this job, you will face obstacles and adversity constantly and there will be moments of dissonance between what you are told and what you feel. Your students will only benefit if you hold true to your values, goals, and mission as an educator. Not every student will remember what they were taught through your lessons, but they will remember how you made them feel and how they felt as a member of the class community you built.

Anna Shea