Anne Allen is a 3rd-5th grade Special Education teacher at Crescent City Schools’s Aurora Program. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Anne received her Bachelors of Science in Psychology and English Literature. She then went on to receive her Masters of Arts in English Literature at Temple University. Since graduating, Anne has spent four years teaching, one year with the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and three years coaching teachers in rural and urban settings across South Louisiana. Anne has dedicated her career to making a lasting impact and says she always knew she wanted to work in education but was never sure of where might be the perfect fit for her.
“My mother was a lifelong special educator and it looked like a difficult job, so I originally avoided teaching! When I moved to Philadelphia for my Masters, I was exposed to a public education system that did not provide low-income students and people of color the education they deserve,” she says. “I grew up with free-lunch, on food stamps, and with autistic and special needs siblings; as a white woman in the state of Virginia I had so much systemic privilege that I never recognized. That Philadelphia experience showed me that not every public school student gets an excellent education, but I realized I was uniquely positioned to help make the system better.”
The Aurora program is designed to meet the unique needs of children with documented emotional and behavioral concerns that are significantly impacting the child’s ability to be successful in his/her regular school setting. As a special education teacher with the program, Anne works individually with students, ages 9-11, hailing from several different schools.
“I love proving that kids, especially kids with labels, are capable of things that might seem impossible to others,” she says. “I love when my students swear they can’t do a certain math problem, and an hour later are teaching a peer how to do it. I love when kids who flipped desks over having to read a chapter book in September are asking me for the next installment of their new favorite series in January.”
Anne’s dedication to her students is evident throughout the halls of Aurora. Emma Weiss, Director of the Aurora Program, has seen firsthand how Anne wants to challenge her students to reach their full potential.
“Anne holds all of her students to the highest standards possible. She is dedicated to showing her students that they are smart and can do whatever they set their minds to do. She exemplifies strong core values to all of her students. She teaches all of her students with the Socratic Method of learning, a method which encourages cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions,” she says.
Anne’s students also appreciate her ability to motivate them to reach excellence.
“Ms. Allen pushes us, but in a good way. I like doing work in her class,” says 4th grader, Kendell H.
“Ms. Allen is always nice to me, and I like the way she teaches me. She is the best teacher ever! She helps me to understand my work,” adds 5th grader, Laquin N.
These are the reactions, which Anne says motivate her to give her all to her students. “When a student rushes through a math exit ticket despite insisting he/she hasn’t seen that content before and can’t do it, I show them once by doing the first problem in the set, they slowly work through a few with feedback, and then they can complete the entire thing by themselves. This is usually met with a cheerful ‘Don’t forget to write my 100% A+ on top, Ms. Allen. Don’t forget!’”
Although these little victories are what make Anne’s days with the Aurora Program special, Emma, as her supervisor, knows there is so much more behind why Anne devotes her time to these students. “Anne truly wants all students to receive a quality education. That is what motivates her every day. She is passionate about making sure students on all levels are getting the most out of their education.”
Anne credits a lot of what she has learned back to her supervisor. “Emma has been an incredibly valuable mentor to me. This is my first year in a special education position, and she has been so helpful – there are so many legal deadlines and so much paperwork, and Emma has been so kind and patient as I learn what to do.”
As Anne approaches the end of her first year with the Aurora Program, she is grateful for the opportunity she has had to grow, both personally and professionally. “The Aurora Program is flexible, which has allowed me to take time to get to know my unique students and slowly design a program that meets each of their needs while maintaining rigorous academic expectations. It’s been a totally different professional experience for me, and I believe I have grown as an educator, and my students have grown more than those I have taught in different settings.
I feel respected and trusted as a professional at Crescent City Schools, which can be a rare feeling in the public education world. I’m so grateful to have found Crescent City Schools and the Aurora Program!”
Emma knows that Anne is building a special bond with her students, one where she can motivate them to succeed academically, but also personally. For Anne, it is about giving her students tools they can use once they have left the Aurora Program, even if this means teaching them things you wouldn’t traditionally see inside the classroom.
“I was so excited the day I walked in her class, and the kids were playing chess! Anne’s ability to exercise this sort of patience, in a game that requires deep thought and strategy, makes her really special,” said Emma.
Anne knows that for her students, learning chess has given them an opportunity to practice both of those virtues, while also learning something new. “They love challenging each other, and me, and while I remain undefeated, I see how they are all dedicated to mastering chess; I know it is only a matter of time before one of them breaks my winning streak.”