Pushing students delivers rewards
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 2, 2004
Ty Young

The students in Anette DeAnda's first-grade class have a short routine once the morning bell rings. After they say the Pledge of Allegiance and take their moment of silence, their teacher asks them why they will succeed in life.

"Because we are the best," they say in unison. "We will become someone special."

It's more than a simple routine, however. It is an indication of DeAnda's high expectations, which she and her students share. Exemplifying her mother, a 30-year teaching veteran in Mexico, DeAnda learned at an early age that children need challenges and praise for them to be successful.

"They know that they're going to work hard, but they also know that they're going to have fun," she said.

DeAnda has been named one of 12 exemplary teachers in the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative, a program that rewards teachers who work in the Valley's poorest schools.

DeAnda, 25, did her student teaching at Eisenhower Elementary School in Mesa, then worked as a long-term substitute before being hired full time. Growing up in Yuma and spending school holidays in her mother's classroom in Mexico helped her realize that she wanted to help the neediest students.

But instead of coddling her students, DeAnda pushes them to learn to read and write. A number of her students are still learning English, which the bilingual teacher said offers even more of a challenge.

"I can't speak Spanish to them, so it is important that I don't let them become confused," she said. "I learned to speak English when I was 4 and 5, and I remember being very frustrated."

On motivating students: "I believe in them as much as they believe in me," she said. "The more they think that I believe in them, the more they believe in themselves."

How parents can help: "They have to be proper role models. If children don't have a good example at home, they'll have a very difficult time."

What her principal says: Eisenhower Principal Patricia Estes said DeAnda has brought an important element into the classroom, inspiring other teachers to work just as hard. "You look for a teacher with personal academic skills and the ability to blend in with the team," she said. "She has done this, and her hard work has been an inspiration for all of us."