Super Teacher Fourth-grade teacher leads and inspires...
Posted on the Miami Herald website on Thu, Nov. 27, 2003
Ana Monnar's experience has influenced students, helping her become a role model for the Silver Bluff Elementary faculty.
BY ALEXANDRA ZAYAS
Sporting a T-shirt that says "I teach for all the little benefits," Ana Monnar leads her fourth-grade class at Silver Bluff Elementary in a poem it memorized, "It Matters to This One," author unknown.
The poem tells the story of a boy putting a stranded starfish back into the sea, and his response when someone asks why he bothers saving one when millions of others are stranded, too.
"It matters to this one," the boy says, "and it matters to me."
When the kids are done, Monnar asks them why the poem is important.
"If you do one thing, it can help a lot. You can change the world," said 9-year-old Sahily Ortega. "You might not be able to help every single starfish or every single person, but if you help one, and another, and another, you will make a difference."
Monnar, many believe, has made a difference.
With a master's in elementary education from Florida International University, Monnar, 49, has been a teacher for more than 20 years.
She began teaching at Coral Way Elementary and went on to teach at Santa Clara Elementary for 16 years.
She then taught at Riverside Elementary, and has been a teacher at Silver Bluff since 1996.
Having taught kids with a range of economic backgrounds and academic capabilities, Monnar says her teaching experiences have always been positive.
"They're all kids; they're all nice; some are mischievous but as long as you work around them, and they have to know that there's a time to play around and a time to do work," Monnar said.
Aside from teaching, Monnar decided two years ago to pursue her second passion -- writing.
"I always wanted to be an author, and I didn't know how to go about it," Monnar said. "Two summers ago, I didn't work the summer; I'm not used to just sitting there doing nothing, and I started doing a lot of research and I found a lot of companies that do print on demand."
Her first two published books, collections of poems titled Half Full, Or Half Empty? and Poetry from Planet Earth, have been sold at local bookstores. The books are illustrated with pictures she took.
Monnar says she got most of her inspiration in writing from her experiences as a teacher and as an adopted mother of three.
After trying to get pregnant for 10 years, Monnar and her husband Octavio decided to explore adoption by volunteering at the Children's Home Society, taking parental training classes and becoming foster parents.
They adopted their three children as babies.
Monnar captured her adoption experience in her book Adoption? Thank God for That Option! in which she talks about her three children, Alberto, 13, Anna, 12, and Alexander, 12.
"When did I tell our children they were adopted? They've known from day one with us. Even when they were too young to understand, I would very naturally say to each one, 'God has blessed me with you. Thank God I adopted you,' " Monnar writes. "I can't imagine what life would be without them."
Being a mother of three active children has helped Monnar be more flexible with her students in the classroom.
"Before I was a little bit more demanding when it came to projects and homework, and I still have high expectations, but I do know they have outside activities, so I might give a little longer period of time when they have projects, because I know that will help out," Monnar said. "With three children, now we have six projects. It's very time consuming, so I think that has helped me as a teacher to be very conscientious."
Monnar has inspired a school-wide effort to get students to read.
"She really motivates the children to read, every single day," said Principal Brenda Dawkins. "She's a very positive person for our school, just one of those people who has a lot of energy. Everyone is doing a lot of things, and a lot of competitions by grade levels with the reading, and how many books classes are going to read."
By incorporating her own writing and love of reading in the class, as well as encouraging parents to take their children to public libraries and providing a list of books for them to read, many students have turned to reading as a favorite pastime.
"She inspires me to do my best," said 9-year-old Jose Contreras, who has gone from below average to one of the top readers in Monnar's class. "Last year, all I did was watch TV at home. Now, I like to read."
Monnar has also encouraged her fellow faculty members to do their best.
"I think she's a fantastic teacher," said Susana Pazos, a fellow fourth-grade teacher at Silver Bluff. "She's helped me a lot, going along the ropes and teaching me new things. She's great with the students; she's very dedicated. And now with all the books she's written, she's accomplished a lot. She's an excellent role model to the faculty."
Monnar's biggest reward as a teacher is seeing her students soak up the lessons she teaches them, not only about reading, but about helping each other and embracing differences in others.
"When we bleed, we all bleed the same color," Monnar tells her students. "We all have feelings. It doesn't matter if you're tall or short, black or white, thin or stout. What matters is that you have a good heart."