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Ayanna Vinson-Dobson ‘04

Ayanna 04Education:

  • Northfield Mount Hermon School ‘07
  • Union College ‘11 (Major: English)

Current Work:
After college, I joined Teach For America. I am currently an eighth grade English Language Arts teacher at a public school in South Hartford, Connecticut. I love teaching; it is one of the most rewarding challenges I have ever taken on!

Favorite Applewild Memories:
Open mic during morning meetings was always pretty fun…and funny. I remember Brian Isbell – “Izzy” as I called him – got up one morning to present a poem. We all thought he was crazy when all he said was, “SKYSCRAPER” in an overly dramatic voice. Then, everyone burst into laughter. It was a good day.

I can’t forget our “dances” in the small gym. It was such entertainment to watch my peers jump around and violently bob their heads (they called this “dancing”) to the music and play basketball with the balloons in the open space surrounding the small group of us gathered in the middle to actually dance. Good times!

Finally, Mr. Jones’s history class. Enough said.

I remember writing on my French notebook that Monsieur Chamas was my favorite teacher – that is, until he kept asking me to meet his nephew in Senegal! M. Chamas was such an inspiration because he never gave up on me. Other than my family, M. Chamas was my strongest support system at Applewild. When he teamed up with Madame Blake, I guess I must have grown on her, too, because all of a sudden, she wouldn’t stop breathing down my neck about doing my best, either! Their tag-team efforts really paid off. Mrs. Hager also influenced me as a student at Applewild. Not only did she remind me how much I hated acting, but she helped me learn that I did not need to act in order to be successful.

Applewild Impact:
I never really knew what Applewild had to offer me until I had the time to reflect on my experience as an African American female in a predominantly Caucasian environment. Coming from a public school right down the street, I had had a completely different upbringing and lifestyle than most of my peers at Applewild. As such, I overcame quite a few trials pertaining to discovering who I was during my time there, one about which I wrote a poem. I titled it “I Can Only Be Me.” Immediately after I read it at a morning meeting, one could hear a pin drop. I remember Mr. Olsen’s face was bright red (he was crying, though he might not admit it), and my best friend, Zaneta, had the most comforting smile on her face. It was that morning that my experience at Applewild changed for the better. I vowed that I would no longer pretend to be someone I was not; I could tell my peers and our teachers approved as they clapped very loudly. Some gave me a standing ovation and had tears in their eyes. That day, Applewild finally became a place I could be myself. This is my favorite Applewild memory.

Posted: March 28, 2012

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