Teaching is at the heart of the Global Teaching Project’s mission. Teacher shortages across the country prevent students from accessing advanced coursework, which, in turn, impedes their ability to pursue, and complete, a college education. To address that growing crisis, the Global Teaching Project provides promising high school students in rural communities access to advanced STEM courses needed to achieve their full potential, but which their schools otherwise could not offer.
Supervisory Instructors—experienced, in-state, AP-certified teachers—are critical to the Global Teaching Project’s Advanced STEM Access Program. Supervisory Instructors provide synchronous and asynchronous instruction, lead university-based residential instructional programs, create and administer online course platforms, prepare lesson plans, and provide academic and pedagogical support to on-site teachers.
Anna Creekmore, a Mississippi native and Physics and math teacher, has worked with the Global Teaching Project as a Supervising Instructor since the Advanced STEM Access Program began in 2017. Anna plays a key role in crafting the structure of the course, providing instruction directly to students, and supporting in-class teachers. More importantly, Anna’s enthusiasm, compassion, and drive has set the tone for our work, and continues to shape and guide implementation of the Advanced STEM Access Program.
The Global Teaching Project is honored to work with Anna and learn from her. We recently sat down with Anna over Zoom after a long day of teaching, and she was as full of energy as ever.
Where in Mississippi did you grow up? What were some of your interests in high school?
I went to Pontotoc City High School in Pontotoc, Mississippi. It is a small town right in between Oxford, where Ole Miss is located, and Tupelo, where Elvis is from. I graduated with about 180 students. I enjoyed both athletics and academics. I knew I always wanted to become a teacher because I knew I wanted to make an impact on students’ lives. I also always wanted to coach, and to coach, you needed to be a teacher too. I took quite a bit of STEM, including AP Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, Physics, Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus. I played multiple sports, including: powerlifting, slowpitch softball, tennis and basketball. My partner and I won #2 girls doubles at state in tennis my junior year, we won state in basketball my senior year, and I placed 3rd at state in powerlifting.
What was your high school like?
Pontotoc City High School was a very well supported school by the community. Walking through my school looked different from other schools. Some textbooks were really old, but we had books and other resources, whereas many other schools in Mississippi did not. We had everything we needed–maybe not everything we wanted, but definitely everything we needed. We had many highly qualified teachers and opportunities to take classes to challenge us and prepare us for college. There were also many different clubs and activities to participate in depending on your interest from an incredible band, to athletics, academic clubs, theater, FCA, Student Council, and even a Knitting Club.
Where did you go to college and what did you study?
I went to Mississippi State University, a little over an hour from where I grew up. I majored in Secondary Education, Physics. I also stayed and earned my master degree in Secondary Education, Mathematics. I enjoy challenging myself and this was a way I could make a difference by becoming a teacher, while diving into a subject that was not a typical choice. My Momma has her masters in Physics, so when I took it in high school she was a huge help to not only help me get through the class, but she really helped spark the interest and “coolness” with the understanding too. Education classes push you in a different way because you understand people and content, not just content. Senior year, I did my student teaching at New Hope High School, a county school in Lowndes County, MS. Then I started graduate school. Afterward, I went straight to Houston High School to teach. This was a great place for me to begin my career because of personal connections to the community and I had been awarded a critical need scholarship, which paid for most of my expenses for two years in college, in exchange for teaching physics after graduation.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I’ve always had an interest in people and wanted to be a role model and a support system, like my teachers were for me. I thrive around people and need face-to-face interaction. Teaching feels like I’m inspiring lives and lighting a fuse inside my students. I like making a difference and I get to do that every day in the heart and mind of a child.
You are a very passionate educator and student advocate. Where does this passion for your students come from? What motivates you?
My faith is where everything comes from. To whom much is given, much is expected. This may sound kind of crazy, but teaching is one of my ways of worship—using my gifts for God’s glory. I worship God by loving people because He loved me, and if an absolutely perfect God could love a very imperfect me, I can only overflow that love to others. There is an old song I love that says, “Love isn’t love till you give it away. Love wasn’t put in your heart to stay.” My main goal is to make sure kids know they are loved and that they can and should be proud of themselves, because I am proud of them.
What interests you about teaching STEM subjects and about teaching Physics, in particular?
I always knew I wanted to teach math since I was little. Then I took physics and it was like I was finally using it all for a reason. To me, physics is explaining the world in a new language, and that language just happens to be math. STEM classes set you so far ahead, and the challenge is fun—it’s like a puzzle.
Teaching during Covid-19 has presented countless challenges. What advice might you give to teachers who are seeking to motivate their students during this time?
You can’t motivate your kids if you’re not motivated. So many of our educators are exhausted, but it’s important to work with the end in mind. Try to stay motivated and positive and your students will do the same. There are countless online tools that can help, too. I recently found one that grades certain assignments for me, so I have more time to prep. Work smarter, not harder!
Can you share something creative you have done during the pandemic to engage with your students as many of them are learning remotely?
At the end of last school year, I sent encouraging and inspirational quotes almost every day using our class messaging app. I also created an Instagram account for my dogs for my students to follow (it was a special request from a former student). This helped to spark hope and happiness when it was hard to find during the craziest times of the pandemic.
We know you’re a big sports fan – what are your favorites sports and teams?
I love playing sports more than watching. However, I do love going to watch my students’ sporting events as often as I can. I love anything Mississippi State. Peyton Manning was my favorite, but since he retired, I retired from the NFL, too. My husband and I try to read one book per month, so that takes up a lot of my free time and has taken priority over sporting events.
Who is one of your personal heroines or heroes, and why?
My parents. They are so loving, selfless, and supportive. They both commuted to work every day in opposite directions. Many times they would drive two hours each way just to make it to a ball game. My mom and I share a sense of humor for cheesy jokes and little kid movies. She loves being nerdy with me in all the math and science realms. My dad and I have always been big buddies. He would take me almost everywhere with him from car shows, to working on the farm, to many ball games. He was a school administrator and I remember almost everywhere we went someone would come up to him, say hello, and thank him for something he did for them.
An important thing they both taught me is to pull inspiration from many sources. So now, I try to find a little bit of inspiration in each movie I watch, book I read, or person I meet. I love quotes. In high school my mom even let me write quotes all over the walls in my room (to understand her willingness to let me do this, just read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch). One of my recent favorites is from Mother Teresa, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”
What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with high school?
Work hard, be honest and be proud of who you are. Also, figure out what is most rewarding to you and pursue that, not just what someone else’s ideas of “success” may look like.