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Alma Middle School Teacher of the Year: Anna Redo-Robles 7/4/21

Headline: ‘I truly love to teach’


AMS science teacher Anna Redo-Robles earns admiration from students, peers


By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Bob Wolfe eagerly jumped at the opportunity of bringing Anna Redo-Robles to Alma Middle School. It would be different, going from high school to middle school, but Wolfe had a hunch it would work. 


So did Redo-Robles. 


“I was really excited when I heard she was considering returning to school,” Wolfe said. “I have known Anna since her days at Alma High School. It was great to have her on board.”


This spring, five years after her return to teaching, Redo-Robles was named the Alma Middle School Teacher of the Year. 


Through it all, Redo-Robles said, AMS didn’t didn’t skip a beat. 


“Mr. Wolfe and his assistant principals, most recently Mr. (J.D.) Coursey, have completely changed the culture of AMS in the five years that I have been here,” she said. “I am proud to be part of the team that is all pulling in the same direction for the benefit of all of our students. Decisions are made based on data and time management in a cohesive supportive manner.  We all feel heard, we all feel valued and highly regarded. We together are AMS and we are making and have made great changes for our students.  


“I am proud to work with the caliber of my co-workers, all of them.


Teaching isn’t something Redo-Robles stumbled into. She was a valued successful science teacher at Alma High School less than a decade ago when she took time off to help put her daughter, Ashley, through veterinary school. 


“I truly love to teach. I believe it is my calling,” Redo-Robles said. “The only reason I left teaching was that I was helping my daughter through her undergrad and a bit more knowing that she would have the full debt of her DVM ( Dr. Veterinary Medicine) education.”


Before leaving, Redo-Robles worked tirelessly without many days off. 


“I worked four jobs for four years trying to keep my classroom. One year I had 10 days off, and none were consecutive,” Redo-Robles said. “I worked 12 days on 8 or 10 or 12 or 16 hours then had two days off. If I could pick up extra shifts on those days, I would. 


“After four years, I was worried I could no longer keep up that pace.”


Redo-Robles left teaching for a few years to ease her schedule -- only after finishing her semester.


“I was offered a job working three, 13.5 hour shifts Monday, Tuesday (and) Wednesday that paid as much as all the others together,” she said. “I worked full time at the hospital and teaching from spring break until the end of that year - then I was full-time at the hospital.”


Redo-Robles eventually oversaw 45 clinics as a lab manager and quality control and lab liaison until Ashley graduated from vet school. 


Wolfe was waiting. 


“Thankfully there was a position in our district,” Redo-Robles said. “I do what I think I am supposed to be doing. I think that’s one of the things that I love about teaching, is to share my passion for understanding how and why things work, from the human body to planets in space to machinery. ‘Everything is science.’  


“I have even worked side by side with students of mine in the hospital lab!”


Teaching Alma sixth-graders, Redo-Robles now finds herself teaching former students’ children. She calls them “grandstudents.”


“I love to try to prepare my students for the future,” she said. “Knowledge is power.”


Redo-Robles wants her students to leave her classroom feeling anything’s possible.


“I try to inspire my students to see that they can be fearless, good decision-makers about their future,” she said. “Their potential is limitless, even if they fail along the way. I think that I love when a student is proud of who they are becoming. In school, there is so much life. In hospitals, there are many life and death struggles. Maybe I just like to help people. 


“I could never pay back all of the help that I received so I pay it forward.”


Redo-Robles and others at AMS battled hard to pull past the pandemic. On March 16, 2020, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson effectively closed all schools until further notice. 


Last August, Alma opened up. But things were far different from most years. Teachers taught regular kids and learned to teach via Zoom. 


“I started preparing my online classes for this year as soon as last year ended,” Redo-Robles said. “I attended as many professional development classes to help me with my weakest area, which was technology. By mid-summer, I had most of the first semester (lessons) completed. “My mom lived with me and became gravely ill. I knew that if I had to take care of her. (But) I needed to have as much of the curriculum built for remote teaching and a version that was not hands-on learning built before the new school year started. There would not be enough time in a day for her care and planning for teaching the way we would have to.”


The real danger during the height of COVID was learning to isolate. 


“The anxiety of trying to keep my students, me, my husband, and my mother safe from Covid-19 was extremely taxing mentally and physically,” Redo-Robles said. 


Redo-Robles thought back to the 1980s, when she worked in a Long Island, New York, hospital at the height of the AIDS epidemic. 


“No one knew how AIDS was transferred,” she said. “Holding and opening hundreds of glass test tubes of blood a day, I was going to be as careful as I could. I left school (AMS) and showered as soon as I got home and washed my clothes right after that. Shoes were left at the door. I tried to remember all the things we tried to think up to keep our families safe when I worked at University Hospital At Stony Brook during the AIDS pandemic in New York. 


“I told myself that if I survived that pandemic on the front line, I could survive this pandemic on the front line. And I prayed, and I prayed and I prayed.”


Not unlike a regular school day, when things mostly don’t go as planned, Redo-Robles is hopeful 2021-22 will at least offer a dose of normalcy. 


“Any teacher will tell you that the days that go smoothly with no bumps or changes to plans or surprises that happen in a classroom through any day are few and far between,” Redo-Robles said. “The structure is there, the content is there, the plans are there, but 20 to 28 individuals who are becoming themselves are also there. Every day is exciting, challenging, and many times just exhausting! There is never a dull moment. 


“I am a person who loves to work, strives to do my best, and helps people the best way I can. All those needs in me are met by getting up and going to work every day.”