Spotlight: Anitra Pinchback-Jones (WA '18)February 5, 2019
Principal Anitra Pinchback-Jones (WA ’18) starts every day at Rainier View Elementary School with a schoolwide meeting, which “sets the stage for positivity at school, emotional safety and healthy relationships.” Anitra won Washington’s 2018-19 Milken Educator Award at Rainier View Elementary School in Seattle on November 13, 2018.
Milken Family Foundation: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?
Anitra Pinchback-Jones: When the Award was announced, it was a once-in-a-lifetime surprise—I was speechless! I was fully prepared to celebrate one of my colleagues when I heard my name. Immediately humility, amazement and deep appreciation encompassed my mind, body and soul.
MFF: How did your students respond to your Award?
Anitra: Students of the Rainier View Community are thoughtful, considerate and hardworking. It has been amazing to see their pride and “tiger spirit” boosted and hear their congratulatory comments, ranging from “Rainier View is the best school” to “Nice job, Principal Jones!”
MFF: You start every day at Rainier View with a schoolwide meeting. Why is that important?
Anitra: Research supports using positive connections as a tool for building student achievement. My goal every morning is to provide students with warm and positive greetings that set the stage for positivity at school, emotional safety and healthy relationships among our adults and students. We also use our morning meetings to review the individual and collective goals that we work towards every day.
MFF: How did you land in education?
Anitra: Education is my purpose, passion and calling. It has always played some part in my life, whether I was playing school with family members as a child, tutoring peers as a student, or teaching as a career. I decided to become an educator when I was at the University of Washington because I wanted to do something that I would love, and something that would impact our world both today and tomorrow. The opportunity to work in education has truly been a gift bestowed on my life.
MFF: What do you like about elementary students?
Anitra: Elementary-age children are so inspiring, curious and positive. These formative years are critical for development and shape lifelong academic brain function. I decided to partake in elementary education to ensure that children get healthy patterns of learning in accordance with early learning and developmental research.
MFF: Who were some of your own favorite teachers?
Anitra: My teacher from third grade, Ms. Sheila Fields, and Ms. Brody, who was my 10th-grade teacher, both embodied a spirit of excellence, had high expectations, and included a touch of personal motivation for all students within their classrooms. The positive connections I had with these two teachers have shaped my practice today as a professional.
MFF: Tell us about your first year of teaching.
Anitra: The children and families were great. I felt prepared by my teacher prep studies and past experiences working with young children. While there are things I would do differently if I had the chance, my passion for education gave me stamina to hone my teaching skills and better my craft.
That year, I entered a formal mentorship program with Sandra Scott. She provided guidance through observations, formal feedback meetings, and goal-setting conferences. As a new teacher, this partnership was critical to student achievement and resulted in most of my students meeting and exceeding grade-level standards in literacy and mathematics.
MFF: How does the professional development you lead for other principals differ from what you experienced and led as a teacher?
Anitra: The primary goal of professional development for teachers is to prepare them to implement pedagogical approaches in the classroom. For principals, professional development is about learning to be a more effective coach.
MFF: How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?
Anitra: I am still reflecting on that. It will definitely be education-related, either for my doctorate or my children's college fund.
MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?
Anitra: Success for me is when all students are educated by joyous and caring teachers, meet grade-level standards, and gain a commitment to lifelong learning.
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