Spotlight: 10 Questions for Anna Capobianco (CT '17)March 14, 2018
Anna Capobianco (CT ’17) considers meeting the diverse learning needs of all students both a challenge and a necessity: “It can feel Herculean at times, but it is the most important thing teachers can do for their students.” The English teacher won Connecticut’s 2017-18 Milken Award at Hall High School in West Hartford on October 24, 2017.
1. What went through your mind when you heard your name called at your surprise notification?
Anna Capobianco: Total shock. My mind went blank. Once I recovered, my first thought was, “What am I going to say in my speech?!”
2. How did your students respond to your Milken Award? What impact has it had on them?
Anna: I have been humbled by the pride and appreciation of my students in response to this award. After the Milken Award ceremony, I immediately began questioning if I deserved such a honor. I thought of all the wonderful teachers in my school, district, and state, and I began to feel unworthy. However, as soon as I stepped back into my classroom, my students pelted me with their statements about how they “knew my name was going to be called” and “were not at all surprised it was me.” They made me see that the opinion of the only people who should matter, my students, was that I had earned the Award. They were also pretty impressed with the prize money!
3. How did you end up in education?
Anna: I have experienced the power education has to transform one’s life. Since I was a small child, I viewed education as the key to creating a life that was better than the one you were born into. I saw, firsthand, how education could break down barriers of poverty, struggle, and hardship. Education was the great equalizer, the way to be everything you ever wanted to be. After living a life that was blessed by my educational opportunities, I decided it was my duty to pay this forward. I knew that a good teacher has the power to save lives, change the world, and move mountains. How could I not end up in education?
4. Who are your role models as an educator?
Anna: The people with whom I work are my role models. I am constantly floored by my colleagues’ dedication, creativity, and passion. Not a day goes by that I do not learn something from them, and I have grown tremendously as an educator due to their guidance.
5. What memories stand out from your first year of teaching?
Anna: While most people recall the first year of teaching as a blur of sleepless nights and self-doubt, I remember loving that year! I really felt from the start that this was the career for me, and that I was blessed to be able to go to a job that was fun, engaging, and made a difference. I know I experienced my share of failed lessons, but I remember the triumphs more.
One memory that will always stand out was a moment following one of my first formal observations. I was meeting with my notoriously tough supervisor, waiting for the hammer to fall after what I thought was a so-so lesson. As I sat, noticeably trembling, in his office, my supervisor looked me straight in the eye and said, “You are going to be a master teacher in this profession. You chose the right path.” After that meeting, I spent every day of my career trying to prove him right.
6. What are students most likely to remember about their time in your class?
Anna: That I always work to balance expertise with humor and professional discipline with humanity and candor. I have high expectations for my students, and they will likely remember that, too, but with those expectations comes learning. I think my students will remember that they truly learned every day, all year long.
7. What’s your biggest challenge in the classroom?
Anna: As in any classroom, it’s meeting the needs of every single learner. Every student enters the door with a dramatically different background, set of skills and abilities, attitude about school, interests, mood, etc. No two students are alike, and the best educators find ways to personalize learning for each individual child. This can feel Herculean at times, but it is the most important thing teachers can do for their students.
8. How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?
Anna: I plan to donate a portion to various social and educational causes, but I also bought an electric car. I am an avid environmentalist, and this has been a dream of mine for many years. Thanks to the Award, I am now gas-free!
9. What would you say to a student who expresses interest in a career in education?
Anna: Go for it. It is the best job in the world!
10. What’s your definition of success?
Anna: I define success as making a positive impact on the world and society. If you make a difference in the lives of others, even in a small way, then you are living your best life.
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