Tracy Anderson was walking out of the Ann Arbor District Library in 2000, balancing a stack of books for her thesis research, when she stopped by the job posting board and saw the opening at Community High. She had a job that she loved in Pinckney, but couldn’t pass up the chance to work at Community High. It was her dream job, so she applied.
Anderson has worked at Community for 16 years now, and during that time she has taught a wide-range of classes: Introduction to Literature, The Writer’s Way, Writer’s Workshop, Pop Lit, Women’s Lit, Poetry, French, Journalism I, Advanced Journalism, Forum, and more. She believes that she is a learner in her classroom, and is always involved in teacher research.
During the summers, Anderson works for the National Scholastic Press Association and Journalism Education Association, judging journalism from around the world. She also teaches a journalism course at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. In addition to journalism activities, she finds time to vacation with her family and find an open tennis court.
Profile and photo by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News
What was your career path to Community High? When I was 10, I started cleaning the Plymouth Arts Council office. Cleaning the office taught the value of hard work, and I was ecstatic when my pay jumped from $1.25 to $1.50. I worked there for three years on Saturdays. My work experience also includes a wide-range of jobs: Burger King (two years), night security guard (one year), night DJ (one year) au pair in Paris (seven months), truck driver for water delivery company (one year), manager at Espresso Royale (three years), waitress at Ashley’s (two years), research assistant (one year), varsity tennis coach (two years), and teacher (19 years). I use skills from these jobs every day in my classroom.
Describe an average workday: This is what a production day looks like: My first class of the day is Poetry, which I co-teach with Ellen Stone, ILC teacher and accomplished poet. We have a guest poet visiting and she talks to students about poetry and her writing life. The poet answers questions from students and has them work on their own poems. Class ends with students sharing their poems. During lunch, I meet with a parent. In my Pop Lit class, students read and then write analysis papers focusing on rhetorical devices. In Forum, we work on Career Cruising. At 3:00, I meet with students in the computer lab to start production for “The Communicator.” Pizza comes at 6:00 and students gather in the hallway to eat and take a break from their work. Around 8:00, we watch the sun set from the third floor. As the night goes on, more and more pages are complete, the music gets louder, and there is spontaneous singing and even dancing. By 9:30, we turn off the lights in the lab and walk out the door.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? The most important thing I’ve learned about teaching and learning is that I always need to be a student in my classroom.
Which apps and websites would you recommend to other teachers? Google Docs/Google Groups and SNO.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? It is definitely the students. My students have amazed me from everything to exclusive interviews with David Sedaris and Macklemore, to press passes issued directly from The White House to cover Obama’s visit. Students also amaze me with the powerful stories that they tell about people who influence their lives every day.
Do you have a favorite moment of teaching? There are many favorite moments with my students. If I had to choose one moment, though, it is a moment that is shared across all of my years at Community. I’m the adviser for “The Communicator,” which requires hours after school with students. My favorite moment throughout the years is calling students out of the lab and watching the sunset. I believe it is one of the best place in Ann Arbor to end the day.
What was always written on your report card in grade school? “Tracy tries hard.”
What has surprised you most about the profession? The job never gets easier; it gets harder. The more I understand about teaching and learning, the more there is to do.
Do you have a mentor? Cathy Fleischer, my education professor from Eastern, from over 20 years ago, helped me develop my pedagogical philosophy. Cathy also serves as a mentor and inspiration for my teacher research. I use qualitative and quantitative research to guide my teaching practices, and have co-authored two books and co-authored numerous professional articles. Cathy leads an amazing teacher research group out of her home. Teachers come from all over Michigan to discuss their research on Thursday evenings once a month. I always leave inspired. It is a true PLC.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? Teachers work incredibly hard. Sometimes decisions are made about public education without talking to the teachers who are working in classrooms every day.
What would you tell a college student considering becoming a teacher? Always be a student in your classroom.