November 2020 Featured Educator: Annsonnetta Washburn Golden
Annsonnetta Washburn Golden is someone who has known what she’s wanted in life for a long time. When she was 10 years old, she knew she wanted to make an impact on the “hearts and lives of students” in the same way her teachers influenced her life, so eventually she went to college to become a teacher. She also knew she wanted to play softball, and so she played on boys’ baseball teams until she was able to join a girls’ team. From there, she went on to play college softball at Auburn University and even coached high school softball before her kids were born.
Now, as she puts it, she’s “just a teacher” who continues to “teach her heart out.”
It is no surprise that Washburn Golden, someone who is determined and driven, has found success in the classroom.
“I love the moment when a student experiences success after working diligently to reach a goal,” Washburn Golden said. “I love the moments when my students are able to see me as a ‘real’ person, with struggles, heartaches and joyful moments, just like everyone else.”
Washburn Golden teaches English at Albertville High School in Albertville, Alabama. She’s been teaching English for 20 years and working with English language learners (ELLs) for three.
Albertville High School is in Marshall County in northeast Alabama. About 1,605 students attend the high school; and of those students, many who qualify for English language services are Spanish speakers.
“In order to best serve our ELL students, we have a total of five ELL aides; we have an ELL resource room where two ELL aides are available throughout the entire school day to help students with assignments, tests or anything else they need,” Washburn Golden said. “Our other aides travel with our first year or second year students in order to help the classroom teachers and the ELL students during the learning process.”
Most of the students Washburn Golden works with are developing and honing their reading skills. And she knows that many of her students find school to be difficult and not all that enjoyable.
“I do my best to change this; therefore, my approach to supporting language learning rarely looks like a ‘normal’ high school classroom,” she said. “I always try to keep in mind that many of my students have either never been to school or have huge gaps in their educational experiences, so my life with them during the school day looks nothing like the classrooms of my colleagues.”
Washburn Golden has discovered that sharing her own insecurities helps build confidence in her students. As a non-native Spanish speaker, she will speak in Spanish (with her Southern accent) and does not always find the correct words.
“Simply allowing my students to see that I am not perfect and do not want them to laugh at me when I speak Spanish brings them out of their own shells of shyness,” Washburn Golden said. “Once they come out of those shells, the transformation into confident students is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed as a teacher.”
Making sure her students have opportunities for visual, auditory and tactile learning experiences is another must-have in her classroom. She wants her students to be “surrounded by English, but not overwhelmed by it."
“Our language learners have to work harder than other students, but their determination, strong work ethic and attitude exemplifies the power of strength to overcome adversity in life,” Washburn Golden said. “They are so hungry to learn, it is infectious.”
Washburn Golden appreciates the impact her students and their families have had on not just the education community, but the city as a whole.
“Their familial strength through adversity and their search for a better life – to do more and be more – it’s these things that benefit our city the most,” she said. “Many families have opened restaurants, clothing stores, barber shops and beauty shops. They help our city to grow, which helps their children and ours to reach their full potential.”