By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Anna Courage is a Resource Room/teacher consultant at the Ann Arbor Open School. This is her tenth year at Ann Arbor Open and her eleventh year teaching in Ann Arbor. Although she has supported students up through eighth grade, she is currently focused on K-2 grades. Passionate about teaching reading, Courage supports classroom teachers by ensuring that students receive the extra help they need.
Courage grew up in Detroit with her parents and two sisters, Elektra and Julia. After graduating from Cass Technical High School, she went on to the University of Michigan for her undergraduate degree in psychology. She earned her master’s degree in special education with an endorsement in teaching cognitive impairment from Eastern Michigan University.
In college, Courage pursued her love of language and travel to do a study abroad program in Sesto Florentino, Italy. While there, she met her future husband, J.Mike, who shares her passions for travel. They live on 10 acres of land in Chelsea with their children, Colin and Kali, and dog, Rory.
In her free time, Courage enjoys running, doing yoga and knitting.
What inspired you to become a teacher? My inspiration for teaching comes from my family—especially my mom, who just retired as a special education teacher, and my youngest sister, Julia, who has multiple disabilities. I have always been involved in advocating for her schooling and care over the years. Caring for individuals with disabilities is personal to me and I always keep my family’s struggles in mind as I help to advocate for my students.
What does it mean to be a teacher consultant and Resource Room teacher? As a teacher consultant and resource room teacher, my most important job is to help students access the curriculum in the general education classroom. At times this requires reteaching skills or helping them complete assignments. It also requires that I spend time working with classroom teachers, teacher assistants, and other support staff to ensure that there is a team effort in supporting each student.
Describe an average workday. Much of my day involves working with small groups of students to help them access the curriculum in the classroom. But I would say an even more important aspect of my job is responding to needs as they come up during the school day. At times this means problem-solving with students and at other times it is working with our administrators, other teachers, and service providers to ensure that we are providing the best possible services for our students with disabilities.
In your 11 years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? In my 11 years at Ann Arbor Public schools, I know that the most important thing is putting in the most effort into building relationships with students, parents, and staff. Building community around learning is the most effective way to help students succeed.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year? Throughout my years of teaching, I have increased my ability to be flexible with my day and schedule. At the end of the day, what we have planned as teachers may not be what a student needs in the moment and we need to be responsive to these changes as they come up.
How do you keep students engaged? I spend a lot of time connecting with the students who come to see me and attempt to incorporate their interests into what we are learning. When students feel connected and they build trust, the learning is easier and the engagement does not need to be forced.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The most rewarding part of teaching for me is to see students feel good about their learning and their accomplishments. As students have moved onto high school and college, I have been lucky to see how they have grown as they reach new milestones. It is a humbling experience to know that I have been a part of their journey.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? Teaching is a job that requires thinking about the whole child and their well-being. It is important for students to learn and to excel academically, however, it is also important that students feel connected to their teachers. When thinking about why students may be struggling, I always make sure I am meeting each student’s basic needs— whether it be needing food or needing a break.
How do you recharge? When I am not with my family, I enjoy doing yoga and running. It is always important for me to take a moment to exercise so that I can have the energy I need for my family and for teaching.
How do you spend your summers? During the summer, I love to spend time with my family camping and traveling around Michigan. Since we live in the country, we also enjoy being outside playing and doing work around the yard.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life? The most exciting part of my professional and personal life currently is having my own kids with me at school. My son is in fourth grade and my daughter is in kindergarten and it is a joy to see them growing and learning in a school that I love.