The following names may not mean much to you: Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Robbins, and Mr. Schulenburg. But for Annie Willis, a sixth-grade science teacher at McGary Middle School in Evansville, Indiana, these names changed the course...
- Encourage This Hero!
- Hero's Backstory
The following names may not mean much to you: Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Robbins, and Mr. Schulenburg. But for Annie Willis, a sixth-grade science teacher at McGary Middle School in Evansville, Indiana, these names changed the course of her life.
Willis confides she was not the average child while growing up in a small town in Indiana, citing that she didn’t fit in with the rest of her peers because she didn’t quite look like them. However, her teachers were different. They were interested in Willis’ academic talents.
“I remember specific teachers who were such good role models,” said Willis. “[They] inspired me, and recognized the potential in me that I didn’t know was there. I feel like I have that gift now, where I can see past all the difficult and emotional limitations of kids and see where they want to go or how I can steer them in the right direction.”
Willis has been an educator for 11 years; two of which have been at McGary, where the U.S. Department of Education has identified the school as lower performing.
“I know we aren’t without errors,” said Willis. “But I don’t see my school like that because there’s so much more potential and desire to overcome,” referring to her students who in July saw important gains in Indiana’s Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus.
To help feed their love of learning, Willis challenged her students to identify community issues and to think outside of the normal classroom activities.
They identified hunger and the lack of healthy food choices as a major concern, especially for low-income families. From this, the idea for a community garden sprouted and the school’s courtyard transformed into an outdoor learning space, complete with a greenhouse that now houses fresh fruits and vegetables.
“I’ve never seen such pride and motivation before,” said Willis. “They saw these plants come from a little packet in their life science unit and they have been responsible for nourishing them. They are going from start to finish through the harvest to the selling of our produce. The ownership gives them great pride.”
Willis concluded: “This is why I’m here. I’m successful because they’re learning.”
Words of Encouragement
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Ms. Annie Bailey-Willis,I must reflect back to that small town. You had a light that shined so bright that no one could deny. You was smart and motivated,Compassionate and creative..You was a dear friend to all those around you.(my oh my those church camp days) You may have been different then many,and thats why you are such a special person,INSIDE AND OUT!! VERY PROUD OF THE WONDERFUL TEACHER YOU ARE!! GODS NOT DONE WITH YOU YET!