Growing up in small town Camden, Alabama, in rural Wilcox County, Anna Gibbs was all about softball.
“I’ve played the game since I was 5 years old,” Gibbs said. “Athletics was the one thing I have never gotten tired of, and every day I had a gnawing hunger to get better and better. I kept with it until my greatest dream came true: I was able to come to Auburn on a softball scholarship and compete in the Women’s College World Series. It’s now my goal to be the best special education teacher and scholar I can be, and to help make our program here at Auburn the top program in the country.”
As a 2016 early childhood special education graduate, Gibbs was selected as the Outstanding Undergraduate Student for the College of Education’s Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling. She is now pursuing her master’s in collaborative special education, and has plans to attain her doctorate, as well. She completed a semester-long internship at West Smiths Station Elementary, and had classroom experiences at nearly a dozen other schools in and around Auburn. She has also been involved in numerous philanthropic outreach activities.
“I had back surgery my freshman year, but through rehab was able to return to the catching position,” she said. “Coach Clint Myers was hired as the head coach in the summer prior to my sophomore year and assured us that we would go to the Women’s College World Series before we graduated. He never wavered from that in any way, and made us believe it would happen if we would buy into the program. We bought in to his philosophy, and we’ve competed in the last two Women’s College World Series. Last year we were the 2016 runner-up national champions. That kind of dedication and focus was one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of, and it inspired me to seek excellence in everything I do.”
In order to complete the internship required for graduation, Gibbs made the decision to hang up her cleats and pick up her cap and gown. Her decision to discontinue playing softball was the beginning of a new transition which Gibbs described as a time where she could find a new identity for herself, meet new people and grow just as strong academically as she had athletically.
“Coach Myers’ leadership style keeps every member of the team involved, whether you’re in the dugout or on the field,” she said. “He always relied on me to lead the team on and off the field, and now I plan to carry those leadership skills to my work as a graduate student. I have had the honor to work closely with SERC Professors Shippen, Hinton and Flores. Thanks to their mentorship, I have two manuscripts under review and one in preparation. To be successful in this field you must learn to be an excellent teacher and researcher, and then publish your findings. Our special education faculty are doing a great job to teach me every step of the process.”
One of Gibbs’ professional goals is to work with young people in detention facilities and prisons. To that end, she has recently prepared to implement a motivational curriculum that she believes will lead to a lower incidence of youth incarceration. It is well known that many people who are incarcerated have some sort of disability. Gibbs believes that if young people involved in the school-to-prison pipeline learn to set proper goals and action plans, they will end up in a better place.
“Wanting to have a career in research and training in this area might sound odd to many people, but it comes naturally,” she said. “My dad served youth from a detention facility, and I have been inspired by him to help others. I have always liked finding a way to make a ‘no’ become a ‘yes.’ In fact, my personal motto is ‘Swim against the current!’”
While Gibbs is no longer on the field with Auburn’s highly ranked softball team, she is still an integral part of the program. The four-time SEC Academic All-American and SEC Community Service Award winner is a key member of the Auburn softball broadcast team.
“I am the color commentator for Auburn softball appearances on the SEC ESPN Network this year,” she said. “I had never done anything like this before, but it has been a privilege. Analyzing the game comes easy since I have been involved with softball all my life. Also, I had one of the best coaching staffs in the country to teach me for the past three years. I’ve really gotten positive feedback from my time in the booth, so that’s nice. Plus, I love Auburn so much! My uncle played football here under Pat Dye and my whole family is a passionate part of the Auburn Family. I want to do everything I can to help Auburn, even if it means swimming against the current! My post-softball goal in life is to earn a doctoral degree in special education. I am truly appreciative of all I have gained while at Auburn.”