2020 Educator of Excellence: Anna Grace Weir
As a child, Anna Grace struggled to learn how to read. Her mother was not only her fiercest advocate but also her teacher in a homeschool environment. Homeschooling gave them the flexibility to try several different methods of helping Weir, and that approach made all the difference. She knew she wanted other children to have the flexibility of a unique learning environment during their formative years, too.
“My mom just set such a great example for me that I became so passionate about children and them having different ways of learning,” says Weir. “I wanted to be able to help children regardless of how they learn. I think that a lot of times we want children to succeed, and we want to make sure that they're going to move on to greater things in life. But I think that we skip over what's most important and that's themselves — learning how to believe in themselves, learning who they are and what they want to do. My hope for education in Memphis is that each child finds their own way and each child knows their worth first and foremost.”
Weir is currently the Supervising Teacher of the Reggio Emilia Inspired 2's and 3's mixed age group classroom at The University of Memphis Early Learning and Research Center. There, she's able to ensure the next generation is able to play as they learn and develop.
“Something I'm most proud of in my education journey so far is a specific example of the children showing empathy,” she explains. “I teach 2- and 3-year-olds, and I have a calm down center in the classroom. Last year, we had a child that was really struggling one day; he was crying and just really having a hard time. The children knew his favorite song and they all just started whispering his favorite song to him. It wasn't anything loud or in his face, just a calming whisper of his favorite song. It started with one child, then they all joined together. The child completely calmed down and gave them a hug.”
Weir’s own experience with non-traditional schooling and now watching the impacts of another unique style of learning has only solidified her her beliefs around education as a whole. “Teaching is not one size fits all. In school [to become an educator] they teach you really great things and you learn incredible lessons, but when you get into the classroom, you learn that things are not cookie cutter. Children are not cookie cutter.
You walk into different classrooms at different times and you're going to see something different every time. I think that learning that we're all individuals — learning who you are — I think that's important because then you can help children find out who they are. I think that teaching is a big part of learning how to see children and people individually and not lumping them as a big sum. Then taking those individuals and creating a family atmosphere and seeing how we can bring them together and better the classroom, better the environment, better the world.”