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Longfellow teacher earns KENS-5 EXCEL award

Abby Ramos EXCEL WinnerAbby Ramos pursued teaching for the most simple and noble of reasons: she wanted to make a difference in the world. 


The veteran middle school English Language Arts and Reading teacher has done just that, leveraging the power of literacy to change lives. 


“I truly believe that by helping the students in my class reach their full potential I’m helping work toward a better community and world,” Ramos said. 


It’s working. Now, in her 18th year of teaching and her third at Longfellow Middle School, Ramos, one of the district’s Distinguished Teachers of the Year for 2022-2023, has received the KENS-5 EXCEL Award for San Antonio ISD.


She was presented with the award, an apple trophy and a $1,000 grant from Credit Human, at a classroom ceremony Sept. 26, attended by superintendent Jaime Aquino.


“It is an incredible honor for me to be at Longfellow Middle School to celebrate one of our amazing teachers,” Aquino said. “Ms. Ramos is truly a beacon of inspiration for her young minds. She went into education because she wanted to change the world and believe me, she’s changing the world one student at a time.”


Ramos has spent her whole career working in middle school, an age group she loves. 


“I chose middle school on purpose,” she said. “They are hilarious; they get your sense of humor, but they also still want your guidance, they want your help. They might act like they don’t, but they do. They’re always really open to ideas and I can see the people that they are about to become.”


In 2012, when she was working in Dallas, she started a club called Girltalk, a weekly club for 8th grade girls that builds self-esteem and works through conflict. She brought the concept to Longfellow as well, and over the years, has documented its success through TikTok. There are now more than 125 Girltalk “chapters” all over the United States. 


“What started as a group of 20 girls sitting with me in the morning has turned into more than I could have ever dreamed,” Ramos said. “We call it a middle school sorority because the focus is on being a good friend and ‘sister’ to the other Girltalk members. We get to know each other, build confidence and learn to love ourselves in what is universally acknowledged as one of the hardest times in any woman’s life.”


At Longfellow, she has jumped into opportunities to serve students and promote literacy. She’s organized the Book Fairy program, a fundraiser which gives students (for whom it would otherwise be inaccessible) $10 to spend at the school’s book fair. She’s worked with Longfellow Book Week and Family Literacy Nights. 


Years ago, she said, she changed her class format to a Free Choice Reading format, which revolutionized the amount of reading her students did in class. Students, on average, in her classes read 17 books per year, some reading as many as 40. 


“Throughout the year, students choose books that speak to them, and I use those as mentor texts to teach and assess through,” Ramos said. “Through this approach, students read more than they ever have before, and their reading skills improve drastically. We celebrate all the reading we do in this classroom with our goal bookmarks and make talking about our books a daily part of our classroom. It’s definitely more challenging to keep up with 150 students all reading different books, but it’s totally worth it for the gains.”


Literacy is her passion. She knows it is a tool to access more educational opportunities.


“I know that giving students and their families access to literacy makes their lives better and puts them on the path to the futures they dream of and deserve,” Ramos said. “I believe in making literacy accessible for all students and honoring the experiences and dreams they bring to the classroom. If students are given high expectations and the belief that they can achieve anything, they will come to class and engage in meaningful ways.”


Relentless in challenging her students to read more and grow in their literacy skills, Ramos delivered books to her students during the pandemic. She prides herself in creating engaging, differentiated lessons which she shares on her TikTok to allow other teachers to experience the same success. It’s just one more way that her selflessness is making the world a better place, a fact that was noted at the ceremony Sept. 26.


“I was really overwhelmed especially when he [the superintendent] said I was changing the world. That’s my goal,” she said. “I really am here every day working for the kids trying to make our community better so that they can go make the community better and hopefully have the ripple effect out in the world. It felt really good to think that might actually be happening.”


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