Anya Gray Franklin was inspired to go into education by her mother, a St. Louis Public Schools teacher. Franklin grew up watching her mother fight for teachers’ rights, and when she got her degree in education, she always thought she would be an elementary school teacher in the same district.
She never thought she would end up working both as an eighth grade language arts teacher at Hazelwood Central Middle School and a professor at Harris-Stowe University. Now, seeing students progress from her middle school classrooms to her college classes is one of her proudest accomplishments.
Franklin’s first job out of college was as a special education teacher at Webster Middle School, and she worked for SLPS for several years. The frequent layoffs in the district, however, drove her to look for a new job.
“At that point, it was the stability” that attracted her to Hazelwood School District, she said. She has taught there ever since.
As an eighth grade teacher, many of the things she teaches are determined by the district curriculum, but she believes it is equally important to help prepare her students for life in high school and beyond.
“Something as simple as being responsible about having your ID on,” she said, is much more important in high school and college. “I always tell them, ‘let’s start now.’”
Franklin tries to stay involved in her students’ lives even beyond their time in her classroom, and tries to connect with parents to make that happen.
“My favorite time of the year is parent-teacher conferences,” Franklin said. “I’d tell other teachers, you can have spring break, you can have summer break, you can have fall break. I’ll take parent-teacher conferences.”
Franklin uses the opportunity to build partnerships with her students’ parents and try to ensure the messages they are hearing in her classroom are being reinforced at home. Even students who are excelling, she says, benefit from communication between parents and teachers.
“I’d like to see all of them,” she said. “I want to make that connection, make that partnership and keep that connection.”
Teaching eighth grade is just one of Franklin’s responsibilities, though. She also teaches computer classes at her alma mater, Harris-Stowe University. To teach college classes that start at 5:30, Franklin frequently goes directly from one teaching job to another.
Despite this busy schedule, teaching at Harris-Stowe recently gave Franklin one of the most rewarding moments of her career. On the first day of classes, one of her former middle school students walked into her class, immediately excited to see her old favorite teacher again.
As the two sat there talking, another one of Franklin’s students, who she taught as a sixth grader, walked in too.
“That these two young ladies are with me again, that was incredible to me,” Franklin said. “That was everything to me.”