Though Anquinnette Lewis is a Mississippi native, she moved to Durham, NC shortly after high school to attend North Carolina Central University and study Psychology. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in 2007, Anquinnette worked in group homes as a Direct Support Professional. After a year, she then decided she wanted to enter the school system and become an Instructional Assistant, gaining some of her first experiences as an instructor. Anquinnette remained in that capacity for 9.5 years before entering Durham Public Schools to teach exceptional children. After just a short period of time, she inevitably decided teaching Special Education (SPED) was perfect for her.
To help Anquinnette become a full-time SPED teacher at Durham Public Schools, EdForce™, PCG Education’s staffing and recruiting service, stepped in to help. Before becoming an instructor, Anquinnette needed to become certified in NC by passing the Praxis II Exam in SPED. The EdForce staff implemented the twelve-week test prep program over the summer, at no cost to Anquinnette. This included her study resources, such as study guides and practice tests, Praxis II exam, and expert coaching led by a PCG Consultant in SPED. Fast-tracking her to the right decision makers, EdForce staff recommended Anquinnette for hire to the Director of Talent/Human Resources upon passing her exam. The Director of Talent forwarded her information to the Principal, and she was hired within a week. Anquinnette now teaches grades 6-12 at The School for Creative Studies and her classes mainly focus on social skills, though she is also teaching creative writing.
“This has been a passion of mine for many years and I am just beginning to touch the surface of this passion,” says Anquinnette. “My instructional coach provided great tools that could be used on this journey. My overall experience was positive. I felt that I was equipped with the right tools to be successful in the classroom and that the activities that were assigned helped me to get into the mindset of a teacher. This has been fun and interesting.”
As an instructor teaching social skills to exceptional children, Anquinnette believes one of the most important concepts for all students is to learn social and coping skills. She is aware of how important is it to know how to act within different settings, as well as knowing how to handle issues that arise within the classroom. To assess her students, she analyzes the progress that is being made towards their goals. This allows Anquinnette to see the progress every six to nine weeks and determine if each student’s goal has been met or if the goal needs to be reassessed to make it more functional.
“Working with students that have different learning and behavioral disabilities is challenging and can often be overwhelming,” states Anquinnette. “I need to be ready to instruct differently throughout the five classes I teach, so I am making sure to reach all students. When behavioral issues arise, I need to be prepared to take a different route to get the students back on track so that learning can take place.”
Anquinnette teaches a broad range of grade levels, as well as academic levels. She prides herself in her ability to make sure that her lessons are broken down enough for the lower-level students to understand, yet rigorous enough for the higher-level students to be tested. She has discussions with her higher-level students that develop into meaningful conversations. Before one knows it, the students get vested in the conversation and do not want the discussion to end. She noted that last week her classroom became this way when discussing the lesson of the week: Values. On the other hand, her students in middle school completed more worksheets and partook in smaller conversations, trying to make sure the lesson was not too overwhelming for them to process.
PCG Education and EdForce want to thank Anquinnette on her ability to be a mentor for her students. “In my classrooms, you will find me building relationships with my students. It is important to do so because it helps us better work together. They know that they can come to me and vent if needed. Sitting in my class you would probably see one student that comes in and out of my room because this is her safe place when she needs a moment. After we discuss what has happened and what she can do to be successful in the class that she is supposed to be in, she generally leaves with a smile and is most likely able to finish her time in that class.”
We would also like to commend Anquinnette for always being caring, understanding, and patient, while assisting SPED students. She started working as a SPED instructor for EdForce in September, meaning students had not had a teacher since July. This was a challenge because there was little to no structure in the classroom. Stepping in as their permanent teacher, she made sure to do everything the same way so students could develop a habit and routine. Though this has not been simple and still has its moments, the students are now getting used to the consistency.
Article written by Summer Tarpley.