Student Nomination Story

G-A-N-A-S. Five large, bolded letters on brilliant turquoise paper that hang at the front of the classroom above the whiteboard. Jaime Escalante, a notable Latin American who contributed to revolutionizing society’s perspective on education, once wrote these same five letters on a chalkboard for what people called his “unteachable” students. GANAS translated to English simply means desire. However, the sheets of paper taped onto the classroom wall fail to reveal the dynamic vitality and the “oomph” that is embedded within the word itself. Despite this shortcoming, the profound meaning of GANAS- the sentiment of energy and perseverance- is immediately brought to life when Mrs. Ashworth commences teaching the class. Through her ardent passion for learning and her genuine concern for her students, Mrs. Ashworth (who we still call Señorita even after her wedding!) is the embodiment of what it means to have GANAS. Mrs. Ashworth’s immense enthusiasm for teaching has played an indispensable role in augmenting my love for Spanish to a whole other level; I have never met another teacher who loves what they do as much as she does. Her affinity for what she teaches radiates through the way she expresses the course material as well as through her daily positive attitude. She wants ALL of her students to succeed and wants them all to have the opportunity to take the AP test; if money ever becomes an issue, Señorita has established that she is only one call away. While adhering to the AP curriculum, Señorita Ashworth also ensures that we become aware of other significant cultural and grammatical topics that may not be covered, such as the impression of Latin Americans on society and prominent issues occurring in Hispanic countries. One day we'd learn about the influence of Hispanics in theater and music, and the next we'd learn about how to accurately construct a subjunctive tense sentence correctly, with singing or dancing mixed in! What I really learn through Spanish though is that everyday is a spontaneous situation; no expectations can ever be set. What I believe distinguishes Mrs. Ashworth from the other teachers I’ve had is the manner in which she teaches; it is very unique and tremendously effective. She talks with her students, rather than at them, and applies a lyrical, catchy twist to particular grammatical concepts that lay a solid foundation for mental retainment. Some of these little catch phrases include “‘Cause it's a shoe do do do do ends in I-R… do do do do do do… And it was a shoe!” as well as “Cuánto tiempo hace que + present tense verb woosh!” Even after taking her Spanish II class as a sophomore, I feel as though these concepts, accompanied with these little slogans, have seemingly become part of my subconscious brain, which has noticeably allowed me to be more proficient in my writing and fluency of the language now as a senior in her AP class. This musical influence doesn’t only end in her classroom however; the school looks forward to her classes’ Spanish Christmas caroling each year. Alongside with this, Señorita Ashworth emphasizes the importance of practice and offers her students a numerous amount of resources to enhance their Spanish skills, including an uncountable quantity of worksheets, quizzes, websites, interactive projects, songs, dances, and most importantly, outside-of-the-classroom experiences. She undeniably has helped me see with clarity the endless possibilities that learning a new language and understanding another culture can bring. Señorita, while helping her students learn, is also adamant in continuing to learn more herself as well. She works another job at Rancho Grande after school where she tells us that she is able to continue to practice and utilize her Spanish, which she encourages her students to not be hesitant to do the same! While Mrs. Ashworth is an amazing teacher alone, she holds the firm belief that success in learning can not be achieved individually but rather through a collective effort. She continually says that we “are better for having decided to take her class” and that she herself “is better for having the opportunity to teach us.” She is so devoted to her students that she comes in early many mornings and stays late many afternoons to offer tutoring and to empower students to tutor one another. In addition to tutoring, she is very dedicated to the promotion of cultural awareness and diversity through her moderation of Spanish Honor Society and International Club. I never fail to learn something new when it comes to attending and helping out with tutoring as well as participating in the fun activities carried out by these clubs. When Señorita Ashworth is not teaching, tutoring, moderating, or working at Rancho Grande, she is busy collaborating with other schools throughout the area in order to ensure that there are immersive experiences available to her students. Señorita has reached out to a program called El Puente, in which has permitted her students to take a leadership role by tutoring younger kids, facilitated a pen pal program between about four other schools to foster a sense of unity in learning Spanish, contributed to the operation of Spanish Immersion Day at another school annually, and has worked closely with Muse Machine to offer a number of affordable opportunities for any student in the school to go experience authentic performances. Even after knowing her for a few years, I still cannot wrap my head around how she is able to accomplish so many things in the 24 hours, the 1,440 minutes that we are given in a day. All of this though does not take away from the fact that Señorita, still being human, has her share of personal challenges in her own life. Yet, even in these more difficult moments, she continues to put others before herself. She continues teaching with a passionate spirit, still makes tutoring happen in her room, and still is intent on bringing out the fullest potential in every student. I have never in my life met someone who approaches the face of difficulty with such strength and optimism. Mrs. Ashworth, while being my all time favorite teacher, has truly become my role model. I can never thank Señorita Ashworth enough for always reminding me to take a breath and to have a little fun; for giving me the extra push to try new things; and for telling me that it’s all right to make mistakes. During my years in high school, I’ve struggled a little bit with anxiety and nervousness, which has made me stressed beyond compare at times and hindered me from saying what I want to say clearly. I become so entangled with ensuring order and structure in my life in order to prevent my fear of the unknown from escalating that, in the midst of it all, I momentarily lose myself. Señorita though is always there to reassure that in the end, everything happens for a reason and that the pieces of the puzzle will come together. When I'm at the lowest of lows or feeling under the weather, she always reminds me that I am capable and that I am so much stronger than I think I am. Mrs. Ashworth has shown me that no matter what I do or where I find myself in the future, I’ll always have someone there to support me. One time in my sophomore year, I was waiting on stage, consumed in anxious anticipation, for the technical difficulties to be resolved in order to play Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on the piano for my school's talent show. As the seconds ticked by, I started getting this sinking feeling in my heart, and my head slowly started spinning. Yet, before I spiraled though, I was able to find comfort in the fact that Señorita, as well as many others, were right in the audience cheering me on. After the show, Señorita Ashworth congratulated me and playfully said that she wanted me to play for her wedding if she ever got married. Ironically, the following year, I was playing Ave Maria as she was walking down the aisle! How I amassed the courage to play for such a special day was once more because of her trust in me. During one of the rehearsals, I vividly remember being so worried that I started having doubts about whether I was good enough to play for such a monumental occasion. While walking out together after the rehearsal was finished though, Señorita told me that she was so grateful to have me play and to not be nervous whatsoever. She declared that before I graduated, she’d teach me that not everything needs to be perfect. I am still definitely a work in progress, but now, a fourth into my final year of high school, I feel as though I’ve covered much ground and have become much more aware. Her words really altered the manner in which I viewed and approached life. Mrs. Ashworth was opening doors for me even before last year. In homeroom two years ago, she asked me why I hadn’t signed up to attend Spanish Immersion Day, and I explained that I wasn’t able to because I didn’t have any source of transportation to get to the school it was being held at and back home. Without hesitation, she said that she would love to be my wheels for the day because she believed it wasn't right for me to miss it only because I didn't have a ride. Señorita Ashworth went the extra mile, both figuratively and literally, to make sure that nothing hindered me from learning something new and still continues to do so today! Above all, Mrs. Ashworth, who always has a million things to do and ideas bouncing around in her mind, remains so incredibly humble; she constantly holds herself to a higher standard and desires to continually improve. As we were walking through the serene streets of Madrid, Spain on the final day of our school trip my junior year, Señorita reflected on how she wished she was better at incorporating more into her teaching and was a better teacher in general, which took me by surprise. The fact that she worries about being a good teacher truly shows that she is one already. My hope for the future is that one day, I’ll be a quarter of the educator that she is. She has inspired me to lean toward pursuing a career in education because, like her, I want to demonstrate that service, hand in hand with authentic love and support, has the power to positively transform the school and the community as a whole. Señorita Ashworth is truly a radiant and guiding light in my life, who has instilled in me a GANAS to learn more about the world and more about myself. I really believe with the entirety of my heart that Mrs. Ashworth deserves recognition for all that she has done for me, for my school, and for the community; she undoubtedly is one in a billion.

Anh Pham

To see more exceptional teacher nominees, visit The Honor Roll.