Anita Alexander: ‘Everyone can learn, but we don’t all learn the same’

Published 9:07 am Thursday, February 2, 2023

Anita Alexander, 72, has lived and worked in Southwest Louisiana for the entirety of her life. Since her youth, she knew she wanted to give back to her hometown through education.

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a teacher.”

As a child, Alexander played out her fantasy of being an educator during play time. “I did not play with dolls like other girls did,” she said.  “I used them as my students in my make-believe classroom.”

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After graduating from Iowa High School, she began her 43-year career in education as a paraprofessional before attending McNeese to earn her Bachelor’s in Education.

Alexander has taught special education and math at Crowley Middle School and Iowa High School. Additionally, she has also spent extra time tutoring and assisting students with math.

Over four decades later, she is still devoted to her work. “I enjoy teaching,” she explained. “It’s an important part of my life, and I really love what I do.”

Her experience has taught her the art of accommodation. “I have learned that everyone, young and old, can learn, but we don’t learn the same… When you have a whole classroom of learners, you have to differentiate instruction to teach all the different learning styles.”

While teaching, she takes the time to ensure every student has exactly what they need to learn efficiently. “I work with students to find their learning style, then work to tailor my instruction to their specific needs,” she explained. “I think this makes it easier for students to learn the skills I am teaching.”

In special education a customized education is often necessary. “I often work with struggling students that need individualized instruction to grow.”

Alexander’s students notice the effort that she puts into their education. When she encounters former students, they are sure to let her know. “I often meet previous students and I am excited to hear their opinions of my classes and how much they learned,” she said. “Most comments are how easy I made it for them to learn different concepts.”

Her interactions with students, both in and out of the classroom, have helped her understand her impact. “My students have helped me to realize the importance of my work.”

These experiences have shaped her educational philosophy: “Teaching is an art that requires a teacher to know her students, and then instruct them by using strategies that fit their needs.”

Alexander has had the opportunity to see the long-term effects of her work. “As a former student at Iowa High and long-term educator, I see the impact that our school has had on our growing community,” she said. “Seeing my students’ growth and success stories reinforces my desire to educate and support teachers.”

She commended the work of her peers. “We empower students to earn credentials and credits that lead to higher paying jobs and/or college educations.”

If she were to give any advice, it would be to set the attitude and processes of the classroom from the start. “I would tell both new and experienced teachers to ‘make it fun for students and get to know their learning style early in the year.”