Ana Avila graduated from Morris Innovative High School (MIHS) in 2019. Today, she is working as a student teacher at Blue Ridge School, and hopes to return to teach in the district after graduating with her education degree in May 2023.
Avila arrived in the United States from Mexico in early 2018. She spent a few months in the Newcomer Academy, which was located in MIHS at the time, but currently is a part of The Dalton Academy. While there, Avila was able to practice her English and gain confidence reading, writing and speaking.
“The Newcomer Academy was very helpful for me,” Avila said. “I was able to remember all of the grammar rules and English that I learned in Mexico. I took English classes in Mexico, but I didn’t understand anything when I arrived here. It also helped increase my confidence.”
Dalton Public Schools started the Newcomer Academy started in the 2014-2015 school year to help new-to-country students learn English and receive the necessary academic support to transition to the traditional classroom. This unique program has seen students go on to become valedictorians, salutatorians and college graduates.
She said the students and staff members in the Newcomer Academy and at MIHS as a whole were incredibly welcoming and helped her instantly feel at ease.
“My teachers were great and very supportive all the time,” Avila said. “My classmates were very nice to me. I felt like that was a very nice group, all of them felt like family. When I moved to regular classes, it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. Being around people that understand you and know what it’s like, that’s what makes you feel you can do it.”
After graduating from high school, Avila wasn’t sure what she wanted to study in college. At first she thought she might like to be a physical therapist, but eventually decided to study education at Dalton State College.
“One of the things I always wanted to be was a teacher,” Avila said. “I think that was always one of my options since I was a little kid. I really enjoy being around kids all the time. I like seeing them when they try something new or when they learn to do something new.”
When Avila graduates in 2023, she hopes to return to Dalton Public Schools and teach newcomer students. She plans on getting an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) endorsement and hopes to one day get a master’s degree focused on teaching ESOL.
“I hope that I get to teach here in Dalton Public Schools,” Avila said. “I want to be around newcomers. I have always felt that people that have gone through the experience of being a newcomer are always very helpful. Maybe that’s why I really like being around newcomers, because I felt very welcome when I was new in the country and I want to be able to give back.”
For other students who might be new to the country, Avila said she would encourage them to keep trying and be curious.
“It is important to put effort in on our part, not just what the teachers give us,” Avila said. “Look, investigate and speak, and you will lose the fear of speaking. It is very hard and embarrassing sometimes, but it gets better in time. You will feel less nervous as you practice, and it just gets easier.”