POMFRET, Md. – In a world of hybrid teaching, Alexis Eaton is rocking it with her fourth graders. Like most Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) teachers, Eaton has some students in-person at school and some in the online virtual classroom. Eaton is almost always on her feet, navigating her desk and camera set up, moving around her classroom and making sure her students are having fun while learning. She challenges them to take ownership of their success while encouraging them to put forth their best effort each day.
The passion Eaton has for teaching is displayed in her smile and demeanor when she welcomes her students to class each day. Eaton’s passion for education makes her a standout teacher and why she was named the 2021 Charles County Teacher of the Year. While Eaton knew she was Craik’s teacher of the year nominee, she still struggles with the reality that she was chosen for this year’s honor.
“I still struggle to fully wrap my brain around it. I feel like I work with and know so many incredible educators that are so deserving of recognition that I find it hard to comprehend that I was selected,” Eaton said. Last week, Eaton was surprised by Superintendent of Schools Kimberly Hill with the news on her selection as Teacher of the Year.
Eaton began her teaching career with CCPS in 2009 as a fifth-grade teacher at Craik. She strives to build relationships with her students on mutual trust and respect. She encourages students to take charge of their success so they continue through school with a strong foundation for lifelong learning. Eaton also engages the families of students so they see learning as a partnership between school and home. “By working with parents as a collaborative team, it allows me to develop and extend relationships with students to meet their needs,” Eaton said.
Eaton joined the fourth-grade team at Craik in 2014 and now serves as the team leader. She is known among her colleagues as a role-model leader and master of virtual learning. She shares knowledge with her peers and is committed to the success of not only herself, but her colleagues and their students as well. The COVID-19 pandemic caused CCPS to start this school year in a virtual platform. Eaton embraced the challenges of online learning and implemented a variety of instructional strategies in her classroom.
Teresa Schinasi is a member of the fourth-grade team at Craik and has worked alongside Eaton for the past eight years. She said Eaton’s true commitment is to her students. “Her teaching is a reflection of the huge heart she has for each and every one of her students. This school year has been a challenge for all of us, however Alexis has risen to the top by adapting to all of the demands placed on her. She has always been a successful educator, but this year she has been able to master virtual learning almost seamlessly,” Schinasi wrote in a nomination letter.
Craik fifth grader Makena Pauole was in Eaton’s class last school year and wrote a letter to support her nomination. In her letter, Pauole describes Eaton as a kind and friendly teacher who makes learning about any subject fun. “Her goal was to see each of us do our best. She helped encourage students when they were stuck and always walked us through challenging things. I will always remember her big smile,” Pauole wrote.
Eaton not only strives to build relationships with students in her classroom, but with all Craik students. She treats every student as her own. At any time throughout the school day, Eaton may have a fifth grader in her classroom using a timer and learning tools, or a third grader who needs help on an assignment. Students know Eaton and trust her because they know she is helpful, kind and passionate about teaching. Craik parent Michelle West said that Eaton not only helped her child with math but provided strategies she could use with her child at home.
“I recall a parent/teacher conference where I was able to witness Mrs. Eaton walk Milana through a math problem on the white board. Her encouragement of Milana as she worked through the problem was awesome. Mrs. Eaton may not have realized this, but she was also teaching me how to help Milana work through these problems at home,” West wrote in a nomination letter.
Eaton is not only a leader among her peers at Craik, but at the county level as well. She is an Education Association of Charles County (EACC) senior representative and involved with curriculum design and development. Eaton provides professional development to new teachers and helped to develop a countywide fourth-grade social studies unit. She has contributed to reading curriculum for special education students and English Learners (ELs). Eaton has also served as the math team coach at Craik and helped her students place at the county competition.
Eaton said she developed a passion for helping children at a young age. Each day in the classroom for Eaton confirms that she pursued the right calling in life to teach. She views each day as an adventure and celebrates the accomplishments of her students. One of her main goals as a teacher is to instill in her students a love for learning.
“I have moments every day that confirm for me that this is my calling. Everyday my students make me laugh, make me proud and inspire me to do my best to help them grow academically, socially and emotionally. Every day is a new adventure with ‘my kids’ and the love I have for each and every one of them ensures that I will never question my calling,” Eaton said.
Eaton is one of 24 state finalists eligible for the Maryland Teacher of the Year Award. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) will select and announce the Maryland Teacher of the Year later this year. Eaton will be honored by the Board of Education at an upcoming meeting.
Eaton has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Towson University, and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the American College of Education.