It's time to introduce our LAST Kaplan Classroom Hero! Meet Anthony J., a Lead Teacher at Rainbow Station Preschool Three Chopt in Richmond, VA. Besides spending his days with a room full of 3 year-olds, discover the qualities Anthony displays daily that prove he's a real life hero in the classroom!

Q1. Tell us a little bit more about the work that you do as an educator.

A1. As an educator, who can sum up all we do in just a few lines of 12-point font in Times New Roman? Like the rest of the educators out there, I am a friend, a teacher, a motivator, a counselor, a leader, and a role model all rolled into one. I am a preschool teacher for the ages of 3-4 years old. I am a firm believer that a child's mind is truly a blank canvas and that is why I strive to go above and beyond the call of duty.  I am not your normal preschool teacher.  I not only teach children their ABCs but strive to teach using everyday situations.  I take the time with each of my children to make sure that they are the best that they can be.  Since my center adapted the Leader In Me program, we embrace the 7 habits of highly effective children. I know that my children are proactive, they begin with the end in mind, they put first things first, they think win-win, they seek first to understand, then to be understood, they synergize, and sharpen their saw! I believe I have had something to do with instilling those habits in their lives. 


Q2. Why did you decide to become an educator?

A2. I was asked many years ago the typical question posed to promising youths: "What do you want to be when you grow up?”  At that time my response was hesitant and reluctant, as I knew not then what my career choice would be. As I got older and more focused, I had an epiphany and discovered the one true choice for my future career.  It grew more and more inside me to the point that it was no longer a choice in careers; it has now become my calling. Based on my personal experiences and newly-developed desires, I discovered the true need and value of dedicated educators. Those that have made a difference in my life have so inspired me to want to carry on and continue the legacy.  It also pains me to see that there is a rampant shortage of African-American male educators in this field. I believe I possess the necessary traits, mindset, patience, and the skills to be an effective educator; someone that can be a role model to others as my teachers, in the past, have been to me. My past teachers have demonstrated a true passion and a dedicated zeal for ensuring the very best outcome in each of their students. I intend to successfully carry that torch onto the next generation of eager learners.


Q3. What would you consider to be your defining moment as an educator?

A3. I believe my most defining moment was two years ago, my first year at Rainbow Station. I, like all my fellow educators, was eager to hit the ground running. When the school year started I had so many ideas of what type of teacher I wanted to be. I went into the classroom the first day nervous, and it hit me like a ton of bricks; here I am right where I wanted to be, knowing my goals and having a pre-planned attitude to be the best. All the classes I had taken, all the training I had, and I was thrown right in with a group of 3 year-olds! (Boy! What a way to start my teaching career!) Although nervous, my kids were so focused it seemed as if we were on the same page. The year flew by and I loved every second of it. Close to the end of the year, my kids and I were reviewing our letter writing skills when one little girl yelled out, "Mr. Anthony, look!" I looked over and she had written every alphabet letter, upper case and lower case all by herself. She then looked at me and said "I did it!" In that moment I felt what it meant to be an educator, I saw the gleam in her eyes and I knew she was proud of herself. I then realized that’s what I wanted my kids to all have, that's the type of teacher I wanted to be, the one who instills pride in his students and an excitement about learning.


Q4. What has been your favorite classroom experience and why?

A4. This may seem a little odd, but my favorite teaching experience has got to be circle time! I love having that extra time with my kids. The time where we can all sit on the carpet and be silly as a group! We sing songs (the most popular being “Let It Go” from Frozen) act out parts of books and do calendar in funny voices. It's a time to loosen up and be yourself. I love looking around the carpet and seeing a smile on the faces of my kids as they interact with each other all the while learning a little bit more.


Q5. What is the most important life lesson that you feel compelled to pass on to your students?

A5. The most important life lesson I would love to pass on to my students coincides with my teaching mission statement which is, I want my children to leave my classroom every day with a since of individualism, and the thought that being different is nothing to be ashamed of. We should accept those differences and respect them!


Q6. Teaching can be a challenge. What would you say is the biggest reward of being an educator?

A6. We, as educators, have to accept the challenge to shape the youth of tomorrow.  I feel the biggest reward of being an educator is giving a child as much knowledge as possible and seeing how far they will take it on their own. When a child can come back to you and say, “I did this because of you" I feel that's when we have done our jobs. 


Q7. How did you feel when you found out that you won this contest? What do you plan to do with your prize?

Q7. After getting home and checking my email, I clicked on what I thought to be spam mail. After reading a few sentences, I became excited and full of tears of joy.  I couldn’t believe that someone actually noticed the work I do and saw fit to write about ME! I would have never guessed it. I was floored and overwhelmed with emotion. Words couldn't begin to express my gratitude and sheer shock from the email. I was truly lost for words and over-the-moon excited! It's a comfort to know that being a male educator has not been overlooked, because we are few and far between. As for the prize, my initial thought was to donate it to my school, after talking with my directors Erin Rice and Louie Bodenheimer, I was even more eager to do just that! I'm going to buy some things for my class and donate the rest to the other wonderful teachers here at Rainbow Station!  


-Give a special shout out to Anthony to let him know how much his efforts in the classroom and in the lives of children are appreciated! A special thank you to everyone who participated in the Kaplan Classroom Heroes contest. Whether you were a nominee or nominator, recognizing and appreciating the heroic efforts of educators every day can never be done enough! Have a great new school year!