Alnita Dowdell: Teacher of the Year Ninth Grade Academy

Published 4:08 pm Thursday, October 22, 2015

Steps outside her comfort zone to reach students

AMERICUS — Alnita Dowdell has a strong but simple idea of what being a teacher is all about.
“My philosophy of education is to meet my students on their level and to pull them up to their potential one step at a time,” she said.
The Teacher of the Year at the Ninth Grade Academy is ready to name all the educators in her life who, “went above and beyond for a young girl who was not the best dressed or the most liked,” she said. “Those teaches made it clear that I could be anything that I chose. Those teachers not only helped to influence my choice in teaching but also influenced my choice to work in the Sumter County School system.”
In order to teach students, Dowdell believes that first you have to reach them. She will immerse herself in the unfamiliar worlds of teen pop culture, sports, and mechanics, and she is not afraid to look foolish in the process. In fact, she thinks it is necessary to do so.
“You have to step outside your comfort zone,” said Dowdell. “To reach people, you must be willing to do things you wouldn’t normally do. Allowing ourselves to be taught things by our students in front of our students gives them the messages that ‘it’s OK to not know,’ and ‘it’s OK to make a mistake,’ and ‘it’s OK  to get help from another.’”
Failure of a teacher to allow him or herself to look like a fool can, according to Dowdell, greatly inhibit his or her success as a teacher.
“You are muffling your creative voice. You’re setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment,” she said. “Your classroom is a dynamic place where things go right and wrong, where things that should go up will go down, and where things that should be black will be white. When you experience these events, welcome to the outside of your comfort zone.”
It is all part of Dowdell’s selfless approach to teaching that sees learning as the most important thing.
“When a child recognizes that you care enough to want better for them, they will want better for themselves,” said Dowdell. “I make it clearly known that we will work hard together, teacher student and parent, to get the job of education completed. If it takes staying late or coming to work early, I assure my students that I will do what it takes. Because I expect great things from them, I do my best to deliver great things to them. It shows within my classroom that greatness expects greatness with no excuses.”