One of the top teachers in the county has come home to help build something new and great at Hardin Valley Middle School. Welcome to the Teacher Spotlight, Mrs. Ani Roma!
Adam: How do you pronounce your name?
Ani : Ani Roma (Awn-E Row Mah)
Adam: Where were you born?
Ani: Michigan. I was born in Royal Oak, but I grew up mostly in East Michigan. We went back and forth between East and West Michigan.
Adam: How did you end up in Knoxville?
Ani: Well my husband and I were fairly newlyweds, married about a year, and it just seemed like our careers weren’t really going anywhere. We were unhappy with where we were and we truly just picked up and left. We just wanted to try something new.
Adam: Oh, what year did you move here?
Ani: It would have been about 11 years ago this spring I believe, or maybe 10 years ago. I’m losing track. Haha!
Adam: What was your middle school mascot?
Ani: We were the Bulldogs in middle and high school.
Adam: What college did you go to?
Ani: For my Undergrad, I went to Western Michigan University. I also have a master’s degree from Carson Newman.
Adam: Wow. How hard was that masters degree?
Ani: It was challenging, but very rewarding.
Adam: What did you major in?
Ani: Over at Western I majored in Health Education and then at Carson Newman, Educational Leadership. I’m highly qualified to teach Health K – 12th, ELA 7th – 12th, PE 7th – 12th and I’m also qualified to be an administrator.
Adam: What subjects are you teaching this semester and this year?
Ani: Just sixth, seventh and eighth grade health.
Adam: Do you sponsor any clubs or coach any sports?
Ani: Not this year. This is the first year that I haven’t. In the past, I’ve coached dance and tennis. Hopefully next year I can get all my sports injuries taken care of and make the move to mountain biking.
Adam: Wow. I didn’t know you guys had that. Will you be starting it or is there one already in place?
Ani: We have a mountain bike team in place. I’m looking to get involved with Little Bella’s, which is our female team.
Adam: What school did you come from before you came to Hardin Valley Middle School?
Ani: I was at Gresham Middle School for 9 years, so this is my 10th year teaching.
Adam: Why did you get into teaching?
Ani: I actually got into health when I was in college getting my undergrad. I was undeclared for a really long time and I took a holistics class and got really interested in health overall. It was either you go into medical, which I couldn’t do because I’m terrified of needles, go the community health route, which I didn’t fully understand at the time, or become a teacher. And that’s just where I had the most representation. Most women that I knew growing up were either stay at home moms or teachers. So I chose teaching Health, which was my first love. I didn’t expect to enjoy teaching as much as I do.
Adam: What would you do if you weren’t teaching?
Ani: I’d probably be running an event management company for off road sports and be a photographer for that.
Adam: I’d venture to guess that you already dabble in some of that, correct?
Ani: Yes! I own and operate Dirty Bird Events (or FaceBook), which is a local off road racing company. We do off road mountain bike races, trail races and triathlons. I do the photography for that and I’m into quite a bit of other things around as well.
Adam: What kind of camera do you use?
Ani: Oh right now it’s just a beginner setup. It’s the Nikon DSLR that came with the two lenses, but I’m hoping to make the upgrade this year.
Adam: What do you want? What’s the dream?
Ani: I’m still researching right now. I’m still deciding if I’m going to switch from Nikon. I’m looking at Canon and Sony. I’m getting together with friends, trying some different ones out. I have to decide if I’m going to switch brands before I can decide on exactly what my dream camera is. Haha!
Adam: Very cool.
Adam: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Ani: Mrs. Steeh. She taught seventh grade ELA.
Adam: What made her your favorite teacher?
Ani: It was particularly the subject area. I love to read. I always have, but also she was just so patient, kind, very steady, and consistent.
Adam: Which educator have you learned the most from?
Ani: I’d say Principal Donna Parker over at Gresham Middle School is somebody that I admire, she’s an all-star.
Adam: Very much so. What is it about her that you admire?
Ani: She’s very consistent. She has high expectations and she has found things in me that I never knew were there. Things I never would have found without her. It was very hard to leave her.
Adam: Have you earned any professional awards?
Ani: I’ve been teacher of the year a couple times, but that’s pretty much it. Haha!
Adam: Haha, That’s it?! That’s amazing!
Ani: Well, I mean, I haven’t been recognized at more than just my own school, but I was teacher of the year twice at Gresham Middle School.
Adam: What years?
Ani: I want to say…it’s tricky the way they do it. So I guess 2018 and 2019 even though it was last year. I don’t know how it works out, but maybe 2017? Last year and then two or three years before that.
Adam: What played into your decision to come to Hardin Valley?
Ani: I was looking for something new and different. I was really excited about the prospect of being someplace new because where I was, we did things the same way we had always done them because we’d just always done them that way. I wanted to see what it was like to be somewhere new. I also live in this community. It’s nice to work in a community where I live. It’s pretty amazing. It’s something that I had been missing that I didn’t realize I had been missing.
Adam: I loved seeing my students at the store.
Ani: It happens all the time. It’s pretty cool.
Adam: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Ani: When I went for my master’s degree at Carson Newman, I graduated with a 4.0. That was with two children under the age of five, while coaching tennis, running my business, and teaching. I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of myself.
Adam: What do you consider a successful student to be?
Ani: I consider a successful student to be somebody who’s happy and confident with who they are and what their goals are. I find that those are the students who are going to be successful in whatever they do. Those are the ones that I really admire and they are just a joy to be around.
Adam: What improvement would you most like to see made to public education?
Ani: I would like to see more of an emphasis on the arts. We get messages all over the place that the core content areas are the most important and I just don’t agree with that. I would especially like to see more emphasis on Health and P.E.
Adam: What would that look like?
Ani: For example, we’ve got physical activity time that’s mandated by the state. At the same time we have no place or room in the schedule to actually carry that out. There’s time requirements for all these things and the physical activity time is always on the back burner and we don’t have the resources, we don’t have a space for them to have free play time. And the students desperately need it.
Adam: What is something that you could use in your classroom?
Ani: In my classroom, pencils and tissues, but I would really, really love for us to have a space for children. Right now we’ve got the gym and we’ve got the cafeteria. We don’t have an auditorium, we don’t have a field. An outdoor space in particular would be best. I do a lot of activities with my classes that require more than just a classroom space. We do a lot of it out in the hallway right outside the room. Could be better.
Adam: What personal hobbies do you have?
Ani: Photography, cooking, mountain biking, running, paddling and reading. Oh, and organizing, that’s my favorite.
Adam: Yeah, that last one hasn’t quite made it on my list.
Adam: What is a good way for a student or parent to spoil you?
Ani: To spoil me.. gift cards to anywhere. But my favorite is when I receive a handwritten note from anybody. It really touches my heart.
Adam: Yup. I still have mine hanging around my desk
Ani: I keep them. Sometimes I need it…need that reassurance.