Miss Annie’s educational adventures

Published 3:42 pm Monday, February 9, 2009

The smell of pumpkin bread wafts through the front door of Miss Annie’s home in Columbiana while she packs cutouts of snowflakes and a giant stuffed snowman — her tools for the next day at work — into her car.

Annie McDaniel, or Miss Annie as she is affectionately called, teaches 30-minute hands-on programs in schools around Shelby County.

“Every program is hands-on,” McDaniel said. “Today, we simulated a stomach and digested food with it. I try to do something each time that sticks in their memory and is interesting enough that they don’t want to forget it.”

It all began when McDaniel taught outdoor education at the Hargis Retreat in Chelsea. A good friend of hers got the bright idea to take programs about Native Americans, woodland animal and cornhusk dolls into local schools. They made that leap, but after a few years her friend moved, leaving McDaniel with the programs.

“I could see that it could be something much bigger,” McDaniel said. “I dress up for each program and try to bring a treat for each student.”

McDaniel said the business has grown with her children. When they were little, she might have visited 1,000 children in a year. Now, she teaches about 20,000 students in a year. That’s a lot of treats and lessons to plan.

But, McDaniel said she always knew her heart was in education. Her goal is to help supplement what teachers are already doing.

“I think schools often get a bad rep,” she said. “What I find every time I go into these classrooms are dedicated teachers who do the best they can with what hey have. It doesn’t matter what school you are at.”

McDaniel said it makes her happy to thank the teachers for their hard work by giving them a breather.

“The teachers are so sweet, they tell me ‘Miss Annie you have the best part of teaching,’” McDaniel said. “And I do. I get to teach all of the stuff they never get to anymore.”

She teaches kids about everything from farm animals to snowflakes to the human body. For more information, call Miss Annie at 669–1625.