As a first-grade teacher at a high-poverty school in Central Valley, Analisa McCann was named the 2019-2020 Regional Teacher of the Year. She noted, “I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be recognized.”
Walking into Analisa McCann’s first-grade classroom at Broadway Elementary could seem like a normal everyday classroom. However, you might notice a student that has quietly left the reading circle to take time away in a rocking chair, separate from the rest of his classmates, while reading a book to help calm himself so that he can return to learning with the rest of the class.
“You might wonder why that is. McCann dedicated the last few years to “teaching with trauma in mind” using trauma-invested strategies to change her teaching methods along with those of the school’s—resulting in increased learning and decreased numbers of student discipline. Research shows that trauma affects children’s brains, which in turn impacts how they can learn. Some are just wired to be in a constant fight, flight or freeze mode. “Kids need to feel safe, comfortable and loved,” McCann believes. “They need healthy bonds with adults they consider trustworthy.”
That same student started the school year with frequent meltdowns, disruptive to the class. His first lesson was not about reading, writing or math; it was about how to stay safe. “He has the right to go to the rocking chair whenever he wants,” she said. “He’s still listening. He’s still participating.” Now with self-regulated emotions, he’s able to make progress academically because he isn’t constantly leaving the classroom.
McCann is usually one of the first to arrive at school, connecting with students at breakfast and greeting them at her door. She also is there for them after school—her caring reaches far beyond the school’s walls. “One relationship can make a difference in kids’ lives. If I can be that person, I’m lucky and honored,” she said. “It’s not just their life that changes, it’s mine. When I am teaching, I am my true self. These students are my why.”
Analisa will also be honored at the upcoming Spokane Valley Chamber Gem of the Valley awards on January 24.
Links for more information:
- Analisa McCann's Web Site on Teaching with Trauma in Mind
- Feature on Washington State OSPI
- Video by Washington State OSPI
- Feature 2 on New ESD 101
- Feature 1 on New ESD 101
- Legislators Visit Regional Teacher of the Year Classroom
- Spokesman Review Article
- KXLY News Story
- Follow Analisa McCann's Journey on Twitter
Connor's story... there are a lot of stories just like this.
"We all know that one positive adult relationship can change a students life. That is what Connor needed from me," McCann said with pride. "I visited him before school at breakfast, would often play with him and his friends at recess, give him special jobs around the class, and have him call his mom to share how he 'stayed safe' while the rest of the class cheered. Little by little, Connor began to trust me and feel safe in the classroom environment."
Part of Connor learning how to stay safe was learning how to regulate his emotions. McCann already had a break spot in her classroom for all students to use, but Connor needed his own space. He picked a rocking chair, where he filled a box with tools he selected that would help him calm down. He articulated that reading would help him go from his 'downstairs' to his 'upstairs brain' so she filled the box with books.
- To the student who has been visiting her dad every Monday in jail; you are my why
- To the student who is living in a hotel because their apartment caught on fire; you are my why
- To the student who rides around in their mom's van every night while she does Uber Eats to earn some extra money; you are my why
- To the student who missed over 50 days of school last year; you are my why