We put our Trust in her Ms. Avila

By Christopher Bellina, Layout editor


2020 teacher of the year Ms. Avila said, “It takes a lot of work and effort to come to the end with my students, it’s a lot of one to one, repetition and lots of love and patience.”

  A very friendly soul, special education teacher and Miami High’s 2020 Teacher of the Year Ms. Avila is one of the longest serving staff members at Miami High, since 1990, first as a TRUST counselor and later as a teacher in 2010.



   She was brought to the United States from Cuba when she was five years old. She started at Riverside Elementary and knew no English. Later she started first grade at Citrus Grove Elementary where she learned English. St Peter and Paul Catholic School was her next destination for grades 6-8; following this she attended Immaculata-La Salle for grades 9-12 where she graduated in 1980.

   During her time in high school she enrolled in a dual-enrollment program in the 10th grade to do college work at Mercy College, where she finished her bachelor’s degree in social work at age 19, working already in the field of mental health. She also minored in education prior to obtaining her degree, and she worked in elementary schools as an assistant teacher while in college.


TRUST Counselor

  Ms. Avila first came to Miami Senior High as a TRUST counselor in 1990, even being named TRUST counselor of the district in 1998. TRUST is an acronym for “To Reach Ultimate Success Together”, and such counselors had multiple duties: individual counseling and group counseling for students with specific issues such as suicidal/homicidal ideations, gang related activities, violence, rape, sexual abuse and anything else that troubled them. 

   TRUST counselors also led parent conferences to obtain referrals for students to get help at psychiatric facilities. Ms. Avila also did presentations individually and with special speakers as well as specific class activities.  

   For her, the best part was a program called Students Against Destructive Decisions or (SADD) which used to be called Students Against Drunk Driving similar to (MADD) Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She did this for 26 years helping students who were participating and promoting good decisions with the school environment. She liked it because it helped a lot of students.

   The hardest part was getting the parents to do what needed to be done for their child such as getting an evaluation or being seen by a psychiatrist to prescribe medicine. Some of the hardest things Ms. Avila heard from students involved molestation from a parent and abuse typically physical. She served as a TRUST counselor for 20 years.


ESE teacher

   In 2010 Ms. Avila had to change careers because the funding for the TRUST counselors was a separate program from the school’s budget at the time. She was then asked if teaching the exceptional education students with behavior problems was something she wanted to transition to.

   As an ESE teacher, her responsibilities are classroom management, teaching almost all subject areas, and participating with all the departments. If it works with the subject, she’ll teach group activities. She can teach all 4 levels of English, 3 sciences, 5 math classes, 4 histories, intensive reading, and learning strategies.

   She has an excellent assistant teacher that is great dealing with her students who have behavior problems. One of her very important classes is self-containment where students will be with her the whole day. 

   The best part of being a teacher for her is seeing the end result which is graduation after 4 years. She said, “It takes a lot of work and effort to come to the end with my students. It’s a lot of one to one, repetition, and lots of love and patience.” The hardest part is if a student has a lot of absences. “Every year is a surprise especially with the 9th graders,” she said.


Teacher of the Year

  Ms. Avila was recommended for teacher of the year by an administrator and later elected by her fellow teachers Ms. Avila believes it’s good to be recognized after so many years. Over the years she has done a lot for the school such as organizing and helping out at Grad Bash, homecoming, and staff retirements—events she really enjoys to do with her co-workers and her students. 

   Her greatest successes are when students come to her after graduation to thank her and to show her their accomplishments with their career and showing her their children. Her favorite memories are graduation for some of her more difficult students, Grad Bash, Special Olympics, and seeing her students be successful in what they like.

   If she hadn’t gone into the teaching profession she would have become a lawyer and would have probably been helping students specializing in criminal justice. In her words, “Something to help others I think always helps because that gives you more self value as a person and you are helping others to accomplish something that they maybe would have never been able to accomplish if you didn’t give them that little push.” 


Activities out of School

    When she retires, Ms. Avila wants to travel more and possibly move because Miami is getting to be an expensive place to live.

   Ms. Avila is very active when she’s not working. She cooks and bakes when she has the chance for administrators, students, even doing some cooking in her classroom. Riding her bike has been one of her hobbies ever since she was a kid. 

  She has been to India, Russia, Spain, Italy, and France. She wants staff and students to know that her door is always open and that anything told to her is confidential.

   Ms. Avila quiz

  1.  How old was Ms. Avila when she was brought to the U.S. from Cuba?   
  2.  At what age did she get her bachelor’s degree in social work?
  3.  How long was Ms. Avila a TRUST counselor for?
  4.  When did she start her career at Miami High?
  5.  What places has she traveled to?