I first met Ann almost 6 years ago. If you didn't already know, before I was a full-time photographer, I was a middle school teacher for 12 years. Wow, was it really that long? When I started out I was a special education teacher, now known as an exceptional ed teacher, and will soon change to some other adjective to try and define a group of students who simply learn differently from the mass majority. Whatever the title, I was a teacher. Period.
When I first moved to Richmond I had the true pleasure of co-teaching with an amazing women. I didn't have much experience with co-teaching, I was in a new school, in a new state, and 8 months pregnant with my first baby. Yeah, I was a bit over-whelmed. Not only would I be co-teaching with Ann, but with 3 other teachers as well. I was used to having my own classroom and now I found myself pulling a cart between four different classrooms. I knew it was going to be a difficult year, but I was just thankful to have a job, which is amazing considering I was 5 months pregnant during my interview and due the 2nd week of school! But, this post isn't about me and my journey through the educational system. This post is about an amazing women, mother, grandmother and teacher!
During the summer, when I received the names and emails of the teachers I would be co-teaching with, I quickly wrote to everyone and introduced myself. I was eager to form a relationship with them and figure out a plan for the school year. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. It was the final weeks of summer break and I know the last thing anyone wanted to do was meet with me and plan. Unfortunately, I was just one of the many co-teachers that was thrown into their classrooms, without training , and would most likely end up in a room other than their's the following year (which is exactly what happened).
Despite all of that Ann agreed to meet with me. The first thing Ann said to me was something to the effect of, "I'm not a big fan of co-teaching". Oh boy, I thought. This was definitely going to be a long year. Well, let's just get right to it. Turns out Ann was amazing to work with. She was just being honest and I really respected her for that. She made me feel so welcome and a significant part of her classroom. It's hard being new and Ann was one of the only people who made it a point to make me feel welcome. I knew nothing about 6th grade history and actually hated history when I was in school. I found it so boring. See, I'm not the kind of learner who can sit in a classroom, listen to lectures, memorize dates and then regurgitate it back on a test. This was my experience in school and I barely got by. Mrs. Vannoy was different. I found myself thoroughly engaged in her lessons. She was exactly the kind of teacher that I wished I'd had. She was so funny and animated! Outside of teaching Ann performs in musical theater and incorporated that into her lessons. Half the time I was so enamored by her performance that I forgot I was a teacher and not a student. She came up with songs to help the kids remember dates and truly made learning fun. Not only was she engaging, but it was blatantly obvious that she deeply cared about everyone of her students, regardless of their learning style, behavioral issues or socio-economic background.
Ann was such an inspiration to me as a teacher and we worked so well together. When we were separated the following year, after pleas from both of us to stay together, I was very disappointed and really missed being in her room. If we could have continued to grow together as co-teachers we would have been an unstoppable team! I'll never understand the decisions that are made in school systems, but that is a whole other blog post!
When Ann contacted me to photograph her family I was so honored and thrilled! She constantly talked about her daughters when we taught together. I was so happy to finally meet them along with her adorable, yet devilish grandson who reminds me so much of my own boys!
The genuine love you see that Ann has for her family is the same love I saw her show her students. One of my goals as a photographer is to capture the love, connection and emotions that people share. Posed pictures are nice and I definitely include them in my sessions, but it's all of the moments in-between that captures a true family. It's what I love most about my work. I have no doubt of the love this family shares and I'm certain you will see it too!
Thankfully we were able to squeeze in a mini-session before Jonathan went to Italy to play pro foot and wouldn't be returning until July!
Just munchin on some snacks...
These are my absolute favorite pictures!