Ashleigh A. Koch
Success Academy at Anderson
Middle School Math

What factors influenced your decision to become a teacher? Identify what you consider to be your greatest contributions to and accomplishments in education. My mom was a teacher, and so were many of my aunts. I wanted to do anything but teaching; I wanted to find my path. I found myself as a manager in the hospitality industry, and I loved being helpful to people and helping them along the way. Then 9/11 happened. I happened to be reading “The Street Lawyer” by John Grisham and also caught an interview with Mattie Stepanik by Oprah Winfrey. The book and the conversation inspired me to get back into our public schools so that I could hopefully leave this world a better place through our children. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was feeling this calling of being a teacher, even though it meant I was turning even more into (gasp!), my mom!

I think my greatest contribution to education is the removal of low expectations for all students. In my little corner of the world, my students know they can do whatever they to accomplish. If you want to go to state competitions and win, we can do it together! If you’re going to close that four-year gap in math, we can do it together! If you do not think you can do the state grade-level standards, we are going to work on your mindset and the standards together. I used to allow others to set my low expectations for the students, and I will never do that again. I believe students will rise or sink based on our expectations, and I choose every moment of the day to believe in our students and their ability to do great things.

My students’ accomplishments are some of my most significant accomplishments. I have students who contact and tell me they are now nurses, doctors, teachers, etc., and they feel like I helped them see that they could be whatever they wanted to be. My favorite thing story happened was about ten years ago. I had a 7th-grade student who was born in Haiti, and he was a real problem in class. We worked together to get him back on track, and we discussed dreams, finding good friends and the potential he had in himself. He contacted me after he graduated and told me he needed to meet and talk about something. We had lunch, and he told me he was the first Haitian accepted into Cornell University. He said he remembered what we talked about and how he learned to believe in himself. That was the day I felt the best part of teaching! It was like seeing seeds planted start to become trees. That hooked me and kept me coming back each year, wanting more of those outcomes.

Describe a project or initiative that you have led or been involved with that contributed to increasing equity in education and opportunity for students in your school. What was your role in this project and what was the impact?
One initiative I have led is a lesson plan template. It has increased equity and opportunities for students in our school by helping teachers focus on standards, activities and formative/summative assessments. It has helped align daily lessons to the state standards. It also includes explanations of what each part of the lesson is and how to use the lesson in the classroom. My role was creator; taking what I learned as a Marzano Super Coach, I created a lesson plan template for the teachers in my building. The impact was small but impressive – teachers were better able to plan their lessons; students have the opportunity to master the standards. It helps teachers recognize all students deserve the opportunity to be taught the standards, even if they are many grade-levels below proficiency.