Education

This Columbus teacher is an international finalist for a $1 million prize

Hovercraft Project brings STEM lesson to Columbus school

Thanks to a serendipitous convergence of circumstances, Double Churches Elementary School students got an unusual hands-on lesson in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math — along with collaboration and communication — as t
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Thanks to a serendipitous convergence of circumstances, Double Churches Elementary School students got an unusual hands-on lesson in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math — along with collaboration and communication — as t

A Muscogee County School District teacher is a finalist for a $1 million award.

Eric Crouch, a fifth-grade teacher at Double Churches Elementary School, is among the 50 international finalists, including four in the United States, out of more than 20,000 nominees for the 2019 Global Teacher Prize.

The winner is scheduled to be announced at the 2019 Global Education and Skills Forum, March 22-24, in Dubai.

Candidates must spend at least 10 hours per week teaching children face-to-face and must plan to remain in the teaching profession for at least the next five years. Application are judged based on the following criteria:

Effective instructional practices that are replicable and scalable to influence the quality of education global.

Innovative instructional practices that address the particular challenges of the school, community or country and which have shown sufficient evidence to suggest they could be effective in addressing such challenges in a new way.

Demonstrable student learning outcomes in the classroom.

Impact in the community beyond the classroom that provide unique and distinguished models of excellence for the teaching profession and others.

Helping children become global citizens through providing them with a values-based education that equips them for a world where they will potentially live, work and socialize with people from many different nationalities, cultures and religions.

Improving the teaching profession through helping to raise the bar of teaching, sharing best practice, and helping colleagues overcome any challenges they face in their school.

Teacher recognition from governments, national teaching organizations, principals, colleagues, members of the wider community or pupils.

The prize is awarded by the London-based Varkey Foundation, established to raise education standards and the status and capacity of teachers throughout the world.

The Global Teacher Prize Academy will choose the winner. The academy comprises principals, educational experts, commentators, journalists, public officials, tech entrepreneurs, company directors and scientists from around the world.

Ledger-Enquirer readers are familiar with Crouch’s various honors and activities during the past several years.

In December 2014, Crouch was depicted on North America’s largest billboard in New York City’s Times Square. He was featured as part of DonorsChoose.org advertisement. The website helps teachers raise money for educational projects. In four years, it enabled Crouch’s classroom to receive items totaling at least $20,000, he said, such as 20 iPads, 20 iPods, a 3-D printer and hundreds of books.

In March 2016, Crouch was named a semifinalist for MCSD’s Teacher of the Year award.

In November 2016, Crouch became one of 35 Milken Educator Award winners in the United States and the only one in Georgia that year. The California-based award is considered the “Oscar of Teaching” and includes a $25,000 prize.

In February 2017, Crouch was featured in the “Why I Teach” video, part of the “Real Teachers, Real Voices” campaign conducted by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.

Also in February 2017, Crouch was among nine MCSD teachers selected as a Harvard Fellow by the Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation, which annually pays for a group of educators to take professional development courses at Harvard University during the summer.

In May 2017, Crouch the Kansas-based Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes named him one of the six LMC Fellows that year.

In November 2017, Crouch’s students were the local participants in the Hovercraft Project, an initiative from Chase Educational Consulting of Sarasota, Fla.

In December 2017, Crouch’s students used a 3-D printer to make Christmas ornaments. Then they sold them to help save a school in Africa.

In February 2018, Crouch’s students produced a video of him being super silly to promote precautions against catching the flu. The video went viral.

In March 2018, Crouch’s students produced a video responding to the national debate about whether to arm teachers.

Crouch, 32, is a product of local schools. He graduated in 2004 from Hardaway High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbus State University and his master’s degree from Troy University, both in early childhood education. He earned a speciailist’s degree in education leadership from CSU.

The Global Teacher Prize’s profile of Crouch explains his approach to teaching:

“His class follows a design thinking/Project-Based Learning model that allows students to find out what they are passionate about and use it as a vehicle for achievement. As a Skype Master Teacher, his students have engaged in Skype collaborations with others from around the world, and it is not uncommon for the class to connect to several continents in one day.”

The profile also praises Crouch for giving back “a great deal to the teaching profession. He helps run a traveling teaching conference in the United States called Teach Your Heart Out, hosting three national conferences a year in major US cities with over 35,000 followers. He has been a Harvard Project Zero fellow, a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, the inaugural Empatico Founding Fellow and National Center for Learning Disabled Fellow. If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, he would take his entire class and their families to Kenya to visit the school they helped build, as well as creating grant opportunities for similar work.”

In a phone interview Thursday with the Ledger-Enquirer, Crouch said he is “really humbled and really shocked” to be a finalist for this award.

“It’s a huge honor to be considered, at any level of your career, to be among the best in your school, let alone something like this,” he said. “. . . I just always try to listen to the kids and kind of push their learning in the direction they need to go.”

Before he received the Milken Educator Award, he actually doubted his teaching ability.

“I didn’t think I was doing good enough work,” he said.

Then this surge of recognitions and positive feedback boosted his confidence. But he still didn’t feel worthy of being on an international level, so he didn’t apply when he had the chance last year.

Michael Soskil, the 2017-18 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, persisted and nominated him again this year. Crouch had met Soskil in Kansas as an LMC Fellow.

Soskil was a top 10 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, so he has the experience to know that Crouch would be a quality contender. And he finally convinced him.

“He told me it’s something I should pursue because it’s a great opportunity to learn more about education from teachers in other countries,” Crouch said. “It gives you a different perspective.”

The field of 50 finalists will be narrowed to the top 10 in February, Crouch said.

Crouch praised “a lot of great people in this building and a lot of great people in this community” for helping him achieve this success.

“It’s not an individual thing,” he said. “It’s a lot of teamwork and sacrifice and being around great people who have put great thoughts and great ideas into motion around me and given me the great support I need to grow as an educator.”

Mark Rice, 706-341-2577, @MarkRiceLE.

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