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Kristen Bell-featured teacher driven to have her students thrive

November 12, 2018

After one Instagram post she was in front of 8 million users.

Ashley Greene, a deaf-education teacher at Atascocita High School, had no idea about #10FeaturedTeachers, a trending and Hollywood-backed school supply drive.

Fast forward to Oct. 3 and there she was on the Instagram feed of “Veronica Mars” star Kristen Bell, all smiles in a photo with the aforementioned hashtag.

“I had no idea how large this campaign was or how many people it was going to reach,” she said in an email. “I didn’t even know whose campaign it was.”

Greene was the second of 10 teachers in Bell’s second round of selections, right after another Texan, too — math teacher Bill Becker of YES Prep North Forest school. Greene only had “maybe 20 items” on her list initially, but in the end she got close to 400.

There were letters, too. A few from Atascocita, most from the U.S. and one from a deaf-education teacher in Ireland, Greene described.

Capeless heroine

Dawn Ribbeck, a former Humble ISD’s educational interpreter, nominated Greene upon finding out that the “Frozen” actress was spotlighting teachers.

“I immediately thought of Ashley because of her servant’s heart,” she said. “Ashley goes above and beyond not only for her students daily, but also her friends and co-workers.”

Ribbeck definitely got proof of that, which she put into writing to send to Bell as one of three things — the other two being a photo and an Amazon wish list — for a teacher to be considered. Aside from many achievements listed, Ribbeck also revealed that Greene was deaf.

“If you look at the statistics, I should never have been here,” Greene said, after sharing it was meningitis that claimed her hearing. “I attribute every single one of my successes to my family and all of my teachers. None of them let me think less than the best about myself.”

That is also the very mindset Greene will continue to impart to her students, giving them a boost of self-worth in an area where she said the term “learned helplessness” frequents.

“My first group of seniors graduated last year, and when I got them none of them really had concrete goals for themselves,” the teacher of five years said. “Now 75 percent of them are in college and they still reach out to keep me updated on their lives.”

In her classroom, not just knowledge reigns. There is a positivity wall where Greene would write notes for her students so they know she is both their teacher and a believer in their abilities. All the way.

‘Not a loss’

In the past, while she was interviewing for a teaching position at various districts, Greene tended to meet doubters. Among the questions for her: “How can you even teach if you don’t speak?”

“A disability is not a loss, it is just a difference,” she said. “I don’t have my hearing, but I have not lost anything. In contrast, I have gained so much.”

Gains is also something she loves to see in her students — “lightbulb moments,” Greene coined them. She saw students, who had never read anything past the third-grade level, finished “Of Mice and Men.”

One even had “To Kill a Mockingbird” down with the assistance of Sphero, a robot from a Colorado-based company that helps with teaching.

“The kids are the true rock stars,” she said. “All of our students, regardless of their disability or background, have so much worth and so much potential.”

nguyen.le@chron.com

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