Opportunity Awareness Center Martha Raines High School Behavior Transition Program

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1 Opportunity Awareness Center Martha Raines High School Behavior Transition Program Becky BracewelI-Tucker, Principal Katy Independent School District Dear Selection Committee, As Principal of the Opportunity Awareness Center, I recommend Amber Garcia as a strong contender for the Katy ISD Teach of the Year. Amber was selected as the OAC Teacher of the Year by her peers. If the students had been given a vote I feel sure the outcome would have been the same. Amber is recognized as an excellent teacher by administrators, teachers and students. One of the biggest barriers to learning in the OAC environment is students' lack of motivation. This barrier is not present in Amber's classroom. Her students are motivated by the relationships she builds with them and the instructional methods she implements, The relationship piece is developed from the moment the student enrolls at OAC, Her quiet voice tone and easy going demeanor helps to build trust. She is quick to communicate her expectations for behavior and learning, and to acknowledge those who meet her expectations. When the time comes for redirection she does so in a manner that students find respectful. Amber teaches math to 6th, 7th and 8th graders who most times do not find math engaging nor do they feel very successful with math, She uses a variety of instructional techniques including a hands-on approach to math so that all of her students show academic growth. Amber's students always return to their home campus knowing more than when they arrived at OAC. I believe that this is a result of the relationships she builds with her students coupled with her willingness to not give up till the student has mastered the objectives. Amber is one of those teachers that administrators go to when they have questions or need an extra pair of hands. We can trust that she will focus on the good of the student and on doing what is right even when that is the most difficult path to take. She is an example to other teachers. I do not envy your job. I know that you have the opportunity to review the work of many exceptional teachers. Without a doubt, Amber is one of those teachers. She is a natural born teacher. I do believe that is her secret to engaging students who are known for being reluctant learners. fsÿcerely, f?ÿ ÿ,..ÿ 1732 Katyland Drive Katy, l'x Phone: q, Fax:

2 II. Essay Questions A. What is your source of inspiration in the classroom? Working at the Opportunity Awareness' Center can be difficult at times, but for me, it was a choice to work here. When I decided to become a teacher, I wanted to teach children who might be a little more difficult to inspire. I think that it is my responsibility to provide a safe environment for my students who might not have been able to achieve success in the classroom yet. I want each student to want to come to math everyday. I am inspired by my students who may have so much going on outside of school that school may be the least of their worries. They inspire me each day by showing up, ready to learn. That being said, I want to make my class the best part of their day. Where they achieve success and are not afraid to ask questions. B. What makes teaching rewarding for you? When a student first enters my classroom and tells me: "1 am just not good at math." I am excited. I enjoy teaching them, and seeing them seek opportunities to practice math. What is most rewarding for me is when that same student who told me they were not good at math when they first entered my class takes home a test or a homework assignment to show to their parent when they have made a good grade. It is rewarding to see a student who is proud of the work that they have accomplished in the classroom. I aim to be able to provide that experience for each and every student. C. What would you consider your most significant teaching accomplishment? My most significant teaching accomplishment came this school year. A student, whom had been sent to our school in a previous year, made a mistake and was sent back to our campus. She was ashamed to be back, and made sure to remind me that she was not good at math. Within the first two weeks of her attendance, she attended tutorials with me each and every day for math. She took home her homework, came to my class during advisory time to get extra help, all on her own. She

3 took her first test with me, and made the highest grade in the class, a 94. On the day that the tests were handed back, she was absent, so I called her father to tell him the good news. Her father was shocked to hear how well she had done, and she was just as excited to hear as well. When she came back the following day, she had the hugest smile all day long. She later told me that she could not have done it without my help, and she thanked me. Being thanked by her was by far the best experience I have ever had as a teacher.

4 III. Educational History and Professional Development A. Alternative Teaching Certification Program Web-Centric Generalist University of St. Thomas BA Psychology 2003 B. KatylSD Junior High Math OAC 2008-Present Spring Branch ISD Junior High Math, Social Studies, ELA C. TxABA-Sig: Texas Applied Behavior Analysts- Special interest group-autism, no office held D. No staff development leadership activities E. Teacher of the Year Opportunity Awareness Center 2013

5 IV. Professional Biography I went to college to become a behavioral therapist for children with autism. I became a lead therapist at a day treatment program in Cypress Texas called Spectrum of Hope. Day to day, I provided one-on-one treatment for young children with autism, whom a traditional school was not feasible for. I taught these children how to feed themselves, how to groom themselves, their colors, letters, numbers, and also how to use sign language to express their personal needs. During my time at this center, I grew to love these children. I could look back over the four years that I had worked with a child and see that when he first began, he was unable to speak, and now he was telling me through sign language when he was hungry, instead of biting me to make his request known. My heart truly burst with pride for these children who struggled each and every day with simple tasks that we all take for granted. One very special child with autism, I will call him Joe, taught me how to teach these special children. He was known for being highly aggressive, biting, kicking, and even pulling the hair of his therapists. No one really wanted to work with him because he was intimidating, but I loved my sessions with him. Joe had a way of showing that he was excited to learn; although he was non-verbal, he expressed himself very well. When it was my session with Joe, he would grab my hand and run to the classroom. He got me excited to teach him. That is not to say that I did not sustain my fair share of bites, kicks, and loss of hair during my time with Joe, because over four years, I received many battle wounds from Joe. But each time Joe would grab my hand and run to the classroom for our session together, none of that mattered. He taught me that no matter what happened during our session, or from the session before, he was excited to learn with me. He made me want to teach him, and I will forever remember Joe for that. Even when I was six months pregnant and could no longer have my sessions with Joe because of the physical danger to my child, Joe would still walk over to me and grab my hand and smile. He taught me how a child can value being taught, if you just hold on through the tough times.

6 After my children were born, I began to think about what contributions I would be making to their education; which, lead me to go back to school to seek my alternative certification for teaching. I wanted to use the tools that I had learned working with those beautiful children with autism, and help other children, who may struggle with learning in a very different way. I knew that I wanted to teach atrisk children, because I knew the skills I learned from behavioral therapy could best be put to use there. While my day to day teaching is no longer teaching young children with autism the simple tasks of self-care, I feel that my job today is just as important. I seek to find the good in my students, and help them to know that they are good at math. I love to reinforce their good behaviors that help to contribute to their learning. I want to instill that same love of learning that Joe had. I want each of my students to be so excited to come to class to learn because they are successful, that they would run to my classroom.

7 V. Community Involvement I currently am involved with my son's baseball league, Katy National Little League, as a team mom.

8 Vl. Philosophy of Teaching I believe that every student can be successful. It is my job as their teacher to show them that, and lead them down the path so they can become successful. As a teacher, I want each of my students to succeed. Teaching at the Opportunity Awareness Center, I do not have each of my students for an extended period of time. Most students are released back to their home campus in thirty days. I have to assess their strengths and weaknesses quickly in order work to increase their success in their weaker areas. Working at OAC, with smaller class sizes, allows me to do that. I have the time to work with small groups of students to help improve those areas that they feel unsuccessful with. In doing so, I help them to have many opportunities to be successful at something they haven't been able to be successful at before, sending them back to their home campus with a renewed sense of pride in their math abilities. I find it truly rewarding when a student takes pride in their work. There is a simple satisfaction at seeing a student be successful at somethingthat they didn't believe they could do. My job is not defined by the straight "A" student who comes in and already knows the curriculum being taught, although that student provides many opportunities to think outside the box. Rather, my job is defined by the student who believed that he could not be successful at math when we first met, and leaves my classroom knowing that they can now be successful at math because I have provided them with the proper tools to use. My personal teaching style reflects that. I enjoy helping a struggling student. I enjoy trying every way possible to teach something until each student understands. I want every student I teach to be able to go back to their home campus and teach someone else what they have learned while they were in my classroom. Every student can be successful, I just need to show them how that is possible.

9 VII. Education Issues and Trends Being a teacher, I see day to day the issues that face our public school system. We face even/thing from budget cuts to cyber bullying and back. As a teacher, I feel the biggest issue facing our public school system today is parental involvement. I grew up with a mother who told me every day: "You are going to collegef' and she meant it. Not all of my students hear that message on a daily basis, if they hear it at all. Many students are coming home to an empty house, while their single parent works two or three jobs just to keep them fed. They are not coming home to a parent who is hovering over them making sure they study, get their homework done, and that it is done correctly. They are left to do it for themselves. This is not the fault of the parent who is only trying their best to provide for their family. While this is a major issue, as a teacher, I can help combat that by instilling a love of learning within my students. If they become successful at math, they will want to continue that success and they will. I help my students to gain access to resources when they are not in school so they can get the help that they need when they are home struggling through the rigorous math assignments. Even when they are outside of school, they still have a multitude of resources at their fingertips to help them to be successful. If l have done my job as a teacher and created a love of learning and taught them how to use the resources they have available to them, there is no stopping them.

10 VIII. The Teaching Profession To strengthen and improve the teaching profession, I make sure to keep up with my professional development. I attend all of the junior high math trainings. While other campuses have several teachers for each grade where this responsibility can be shared, I am the math department at my school. I have to admit, I like it that way. Attending all of the trainings keeps me up to date and highly informed. It allows me to collaborate with others schools regularly, keeping an open line of communication with the home campuses of my students, which is a necessity for my students continued success when they return to their home campus. I also teach the Student Success Initiative for eighth grade math each year. Teaching this to my students who did not meet the passing standard for the state test opens the door for great resources and opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. Teaching these students, allows me to discover what truly works with those struggling students, enabling me new opportunities each and every year. The basis for accountability should be Student success. That can be measured a variety of ways ranging from state assessments, grades, and overall student pride in their work. When a student is excited about learning, their performance in all three of these areas increases. It is my job to create a love of learning math in my students so that they are successful in school, work and life.

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