First-grade teacher Analisa McCann was surprised to see an email in her inbox this spring congratulating her on being nominated for the ESD 101 Regional Teacher of the Year contest. Her principal at Broadway Elementary in the Central Valley School District had nominated her.
“She didn’t tell me she was nominating me,” McCann said. “The nomination itself was such an honor. It’s your boss. That was so affirming, her confidence in me as an educator.”
Principal Lori Johnson wrote that McCann’s classroom instruction is “second to none” and said she was impressed McCann is often the first teacher in the building and stays for evening events even though she commutes from Clayton, Washington.
In her letter, Johnson called McCann a “quiet leader” who is involved with numerous programs and projects in her school. Broadway Elementary is a high poverty school with more than 74% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch and that has a transient student population. Despite that fact, students in McCann’s classroom thrive, Johnson said.
“This year will mark my 24th year as a school principal, and Analisa stands out as one of the best and most dedicated quiet leaders I have seen,” she wrote. “Her impact on our school and its culture is truly immeasurable.”
McCann had to submit an official application, write six essays and submit four letters of recommendation. She had no expectations about winning. “I figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be nominated, so why not do it and see what happens,” she said.
Despite her expectations, she won the competition and will now compete against eight other regional teacher of the year winners for the Washington State Teacher of the Year award.
McCann grew up in Olympia and when she started college at Whitworth University, she was sure she wanted to be a teacher. Her mother was a teacher, and McCann often tagged along on Sundays when her mother went to work, helping her in the classroom.
But once she arrived at Whitworth she had second thoughts, worried that she wouldn’t enjoy teaching. She switched to sociology.
“That kind of led me back into being a teacher because I saw the need,” she said.
She taught her first year in Puyallup and her second year in Oak Harbor before coming to Spokane Valley six years ago. She said she was inspired by the teacher she worked with as a student teacher, Mary Haymond of Willard Elementary in Spokane, who has since retired and now volunteers in McCann’s classroom twice a week.
“She’s who I credit a lot of my success to,” McCann said. “I use many of the teaching strategies I learned from her.”
Though she once doubted her desire to be a teacher, McCann doesn’t have doubts anymore.
“It’s my identity,” she said. “While I’m teaching it’s my true self.”
She said she likes being an additional caregiver for kids when they’re not with their parents. “I think I’m lucky and honored to have that role in their life,” she said.
Each teacher competing for the state award is asked to select a platform. McCann said she wants to bring awareness to the effects of childhood trauma on children’s behavior in the classroom.
“We’re seeing some extreme behavior in the classroom,” she said.
McCann said Broadway Elementary has been working to develop a program that teaches children how to calm themselves when they get upset, and the school has added quiet areas for kids who need a break.
“Our goal is to limit the amount of times kids have to go to the office,” she said.
This year McCann had a student who benefited from the new emphasis. He started the year having frequent meltdowns that were disruptive.
“He would just leave the classroom and run around the hall and throw furniture,” she said.
McCann created a quiet space for him in her classroom with a rocking chair in it. “He had the right to go to the rocking chair whenever he wanted,” she said. “He’s still listening, he’s still participating.”
The rocking chair worked, McCann said. By the end of the year his meltdowns were significantly reduced, and he was able to make progress academically because he wasn’t leaving the classroom all the time.
Though McCann is pleased to be able to spread her message about childhood trauma, she doesn’t expect to win the state competition. She’s going up against veteran teachers, including her former high school P.E. teacher who was also her soccer coach for four years.
“I’m just honored to be in the mix,” she said. “Central Valley has incredible teachers. I struggle with getting to be the one who will represent everybody. I have worked with some incredible teachers.”
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