Ridgway Area High School graduate Annakaye Gier always had a love for the Erie area while growing up.
Her college experience led her to Edinboro and then to a full-time position in Erie. Gier is currently employed at Erie Strong Vincent High School. She teaches 12th grade Learning Support Consumer Math, along with Emotional Support Math for ninth through 12th graders. Gier also co-teaches an Algebraic Applications class and an Algebra I class. She graduated from Ridgway Area High School in 2004 and from Edinboro University in 2008.
"I have always loved the Erie area, so when it came time to choose a college, Edinboro University was perfect," Gier said. "It was far enough out of the 'big city,' but close enough so that I could take advantage of everything Erie has to offer. When I was completing my student teaching, I wanted to teach in the city. I was placed at Pfeiffer Burleigh Elementary School in a third grade and fifth grade learning support classroom."
She credits her student teaching with allowing her to network and getting a substitute teacher position.
"After graduation from Edinboro, I made many great connections while student teaching and was offered a long-term substitute position at Pfeiffer Burleigh and Irving Elementary School. I was then hired full-time in June 2009 to work at Strong Vincent High School as an Emotional Support and Learning Support teacher."
Gier spoke of the variety of a particular workday as a teacher and said the lesson plan doesn't always go how the teacher envisioned it.
"The thing I enjoy most about my job is that every day is different," Gier said. "You can plan the most amazing lessons and prepare for student questioning, but you never know what is going to happen when you step in front of the class. Being in an Emotional Support classroom has been a very interesting experience, but I like the positive relationships I have formed with all of my students. When they leave school, I sometimes do not know if they will see another smiling face until they come back to school the next day, so I like being a positive role model for my students. At times, being a special education teacher can be very stressful, but it is all worthwhile when you have that student who thanks you for being there for them and believing in them to succeed."
Teaching has been a lifelong goal for Gier and for her family. She is the daughter of Bob and Dixie Gier.
"I have always wanted to be a teacher," Gier said. "When I was very young, my sister and I would play school and I always had to be the teacher. My mom also inspired me to be a teacher. Every day she wakes up, she enjoys going to work. I wanted a job that I could feel the same way every day. I love the fact that I am teaching these students things that they will use for the rest of their lives. I also like the relationships and bonds you form with your students. It is so exciting when you see the spark in their eyes when they are fascinated by all of the new things they are learning."
Gier said teaching in the special education classroom has her focus on real-life situations and interacting with other adults.
"Because I teach special education, I try to incorporate as many real-life applications in my classroom as possible," Gier said. "We focus a lot on speaking appropriately with other adults, how to behave appropriately in the community, and everyday living essentials. I have taught my students about the basics of living independently, including paying rent and utilities, filling out job applications and writing resumes. We have also researched different careers and colleges in the local area. I also try to instill confidence in my students. Many of the kids in my classroom have been told throughout their entire life that they 'canâ€™t do it.' I am trying to teach these kids that they can do anything they put their minds to."
Gier played basketball while at Ridgway Area High School and is a girls' basketball team assistant coach at Strong Vincent.
"After playing basketball in high school, I always wanted to give back to students the way my coaches had helped me on and off the court," Gier said. "One of my good friends at Strong Vincent had been helping with the girls' basketball team for the past four years. I told her I was interested in helping the team out and the rest is history. After winning the District 10 Championship in 2010, the girls on the team had big shoes to fill, especially after eight seniors graduated and there were only two returning players for the 2011 school year. The season was a success and the girls worked hard every step of the way. It was exciting to finally be a part of a team again."
Growing up in Ridgway has given Gier a perspective that has helped her in her career.
"Ridgway was a wonderful place to grow up and go to school," Gier said. "I had great relationships with all of my teachers throughout my schooling, which in turn helped me word hard and get wonderful grades. I want my students to feel the same way about me that I did about my teachers throughout grade school, high school, and even into my college career at Edinboro University. My students know that I am always available to help them in any way I can, even if they just need someone to talk to. I hope to be a positive role model to my students and be the teacher that fascinates them and opens their eyes to learning."