2020 T.O.Y. Finalist: Ashley Benson

Ashley Benson 

First Grade Teacher, Achieve Charter Academy

When Ashley entered the workforce, teaching jobs were hard to come by - and on a leap of faith, she took an opportunity at Achieve as a Paraprofessional, working in a classroom alongside a teacher. In reflection, that year was one of the best decisions of her life, as it gave her a peek into life as a teacher in a way that student teaching never could. When a teaching role eventually opened up, she was eager to join the educator team - feeling incredibly supported by her Administration and the National Heritage Academies network. Over the years, she has become known as the teacher who educates with her heart, investing in relationship building (especially with the kiddos who need it most). She uses the 2x10 approach to reach her most challenging students, spending two minutes every day (for ten days) talking to them about everything non-school related, building trust and breaking down barriers. Nearly six years later, she's highly involved in her school community - her favorite project being Diversity Night, where parents are invited to fill a classroom with food, decor and other elements from their culture. 


Why are you proud to be a charter school educator?

I choose to teach at my charter school because of the unwavering support that I am surrounded by - from the very beginning, when I started as a paraprofessional. Sometimes in those support roles, you can be overlooked - but I always felt as though the team wanted to see me grow. The opportunities to grow here are constant, and that is so invaluable. My administration is always thinking about what’s best for kids, and what’s best for us as educators.

How has your team adapted to distance learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?

As soon as we knew that Friday, that we were not going to be returning the following Monday, our copy room was full of us educators - just trying to prepare packets as fast as we could, not knowing how long the closure would last. We jumped right in, and now are up and running with Google Classroom and a number of other tools. But beyond that, my focus has really been on trying to find ways to stay connected with my kids, with my families - I think that’s what we need in our lives right now, even beyond the classroom. Human connection.

More about Ashley:


Check out this collection of photos, submitted by Ashley, and get a peek into her life as an teacher! 


Hear from Achieve Charter Academy parent, Chitrarekha Chaudhari, why Ashley is deserving of the 2020 TOY Award!

about the mi charter awards