Leslie Anaya has achieved remarkable results by treating each student as an individual — and integrating technology into the process of intervention.
Recently named Elementary Teacher of the Year for Brownwood Intermediate, Brownwood Independent School District (ISD), and Education Service Center (ESC) Region 15, Leslie Anaya is no stranger to the hard work that comes with being an educator.
After becoming frustrated that both her own children and her numerous foster children weren’t receiving the services they needed to succeed in school, Anaya took matters into her own hands and began researching response to intervention (RTI) approaches. “I learned a lot about what RTI consisted of and how the processes worked, all before I even considered pursuing my teacher certification credentials,” she admits.
But pursue them she did, eventually earning an alternative teacher certification from Texas A&M – Commerce. After working as a special education teacher in the Dallas, Mansfield, and Abilene ISDs, Anaya found her perfect professional home teaching sixth grade mathematics at Coggin Intermediate School in the Brownwood ISD.
As her honors suggest, Anaya has become a pillar of the broader Brownwood educational community, and has found particular success with what inspired her to take up teaching in the first place: student interventions.
Foundational to Anaya’s success has been her ability to ease into new, tech-based interventions and her commitment to providing each and every student with the personalized instruction they need and deserve.
“When I first started teaching, I was almost entirely reliant upon concrete manipulatives,” she recounts. “But as I learned more about technology, as I learned about the benefits of blended learning, I started ‘innovating like a turtle,’ as Vicki Davis would say. That is, I slowly began to explore the ways in which I could use blended learning — and technology in general — to both provide concrete interventions and diagnose each student’s individual needs and strengths.”
Anaya’s willingness to look beyond incoming students’ State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) scores and pursue a fuller, more nuanced picture of their academic standing has enabled her to produce truly meaningful results.
One student’s turnaround in particular stands out in Anaya’s mind. As soon as the student entered Anaya’s sixth grade classroom, it became clear that they were struggling even with basic concepts and skills that they should have mastered years earlier. And yet the student had never been identified as having any sort of learning disability.
“I immediately knew that something was off,” Anaya recalls. “I tried giving the student an online assessment and it simply didn’t work because their comprehension level just wasn’t high enough to complete the assessment independently.”
Instead, Anaya pulled the student aside whenever she had a spare moment and worked with them one-on-one to determine exactly what level they were on, what their strengths were, and what their most serious weaknesses were. She went all the way back to square one, modeling problems for the student using manipulatives until she saw concepts starting to click. At this point, she was able to slowly transition the student from physical objects to representations on a computer.
“I would go over to the student’s workstation, pull up a prescriptive computer program, and work on skills like division and multiplication,” Anaya says. “Eventually, the student began to grasp critical relationships — for instance, the fact that multiplication is simply the inverse of division — and was able to apply those principles to other problems and situations.”
By Thanksgiving, the student had already made nearly six months’ worth of progress, and Anaya’s daily check-ins with the student became quicker and less challenging with each passing week. The student would still ask for help when they came across a particularly tricky problem, but she began to take ownership of their learning journey, which, according to Anaya, is always the ultimate goal. “It was a slow, sequential process, but I was thrilled at the end of the year. Based on the data I had collected, the student had made over four years’ worth of progress!”
With results like these, it’s no wonder why Anaya has been singled out for recognition. But in classic teacher fashion, she is quick to assign much of the credit to her students. As she puts it, “If a student comes in at a third grade level and finishes the year having completed half of the sixth grade curriculum, the student should really be applauded for this progress. They are the one putting in the work, after all.”
What’s clear is that providing interventions is, first and foremost, a lot of work. It’s worth it, to be sure, but teachers and administrators must coordinate a vast number of moving parts in order to ensure that their efforts are effective.
This is where a powerful, flexible educational data and analytics platform like Hoonuit can be tremendously helpful. From implementing an early warning system to managing classroom technology deployments to meeting ESSA data reporting requirements, Hoonuit provides educational stakeholders with a multipurpose tool capable of functioning as the go-to resource for everything data-related.
Achieving the kind of success that Anaya has experienced takes dedicated teachers and hardworking students, but at the end of the day, it’s made a whole lot easier when a tool like Hoonuit is in place to handle the more mechanical aspects of providing every student with the personalized education they deserve.