Teacher Anice Denton Brings Understanding of Autism to Armstrong ES
April is Autism Awareness Month, and teacher Anice Denton is transforming that month-long focus into learning opportunities for the Armstrong Elementary School community to last a lifetime. Denton came to Fairfax County Public Schools from Jamaica, where she taught general education for ten years before becoming an instructional assistant. Inspired by a collaborative teacher to return to school, later earning her master’s degree, she now inspires her students to realize the potential in themselves as she serves as a special education teacher.
Denton loves working with her students, some of whom are children with autism. When working with students, Denton uses extreme patience. “I understand my students depend on me,” she says. “Their expressions tell me what they are feeling.” When talking about her students, Denton reflects on why she works so hard to change teaching and learning for her students. “I can help this child to shine,” she says. “That is the reward for me! To see a child do something they haven’t done before, that is why I do this.”
The community makes Armstrong Elementary School more like a family, and Denton is working with parents, students, and former Armstrong stakeholders to plan for a great learning month that will influence the community to continue caring about children with autism. Special activities during April include:
• K-6 students sharing something special about a friend with autism on a giant puzzle piece showcased in the school lobby.
• Parents participating in read-aloud, featuring interactive books for grades K-3 and inquiry books for grades 4-6 about autism.
• The school book fair will feature books about autism for purchase.
• The morning news will highlight former students and parents as they share their experience and how learning and friendships can evolve with patience and understanding.
• A self-made brochure by Denton and colleague Sarah Ellison will go home to every student, providing them with “high five facts and thumbs down myths,” all to help them grow to learn how to be a friend, understand the ABC’s of autism, and discover some great books to read.
Denton believes Autism Awareness Month is not just a month to celebrate and forget, and that the learning will not stop when April ends. It is a month where all teachers will learn to “accept the disability and work with the child’s capability,” and students will learn how to be and stay a good friend, said Denton. She exudes an aura of positivity and acceptance, and she believes in earning trust first before teaching. She likes to laugh and play and believes that it is important to teach students that mistakes are okay.
Denton is now working toward an education leadership degree with the hope of becoming an education specialist working to build the capacity of others with a “wider perspective beyond the school.” Denton says that she always thinks beyond the moment and wonders, “What more can I do to help special education as a whole?”