School Day Surprise: 3 Alums Honored for Classroom Impact

In New Effort, College of Education Leaders Deliver Balloons, Baskets and a Bonus $1K
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Teacher Appreciation Week typically means catered lunches, discounts at Staples and handwritten notes from parents and students.

Three local educators also got some unexpected recognition from their alma mater.

In a new initiative, representatives of the ֲý of Maryland’s College of Education dropped by the workplaces of three of its alums on Wednesday to honor them.

 

Jeimy Amaya ’10, M.Ed. ’24, an English teacher at the International High School at Langley Park, Alexis Cutler ’16, a second-grade teacher at Tyler Heights Elementary School in Annapolis, and Pedro Gonzalez ’06, ‘06, a Spanish teacher at Samuel Ogle Middle School in Bowie, each were showered with praise, a balloon bouquet, a gift basket filled with items from ֲý-alumni owned businesses and $1,000.

“We wanted to create an opportunity to celebrate all the ways that teachers have a transformative impact on their students’ lives and school communities,” said Dean Kimberly Griffin. “We just wanted to say thank you.”

Amaya, the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants and a first-generation student from Prince George’s County, recently earned national board certification while completing her master’s degree. She joined the predominantly Spanish-speaking school in 2016 and was first runner-up for the county’s 2023 Teacher of the Year Award. Amaya recalled Wednesday the first time she served as a substitute teacher at a Spanish immersion school and the reaction from students who never had a Latina teacher, and who made her feel needed.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” Amaya said of Wednesday’s recognition. “I’m shocked and excited.”

Gonzalez, known as Señor G, has taught at Ogle Middle School since shortly after graduating.

There he’s known for his high expectations, sense of humor and success in developing students’ fluency in Spanish; he also hosts a game club and produces the school News TV show and has deejayed school dances, emceed basketball games and streamed live video of school events for those unable to attend in person. He returned to teaching after recovering from devastating injuries sustained in a May 2023 accident.

“I don’t feel like I need to be recognized,” Gonzalez said. “This is not a hard thing to do because it comes from my heart. It’s effortless to teach middle school. I just love it.”

Cutler has been at Tyler Heights since 2016 and leads the Start the Adventure in Reading (STAIR) tutoring program and the Homework Mentoring Club. She was a 2023 finalist for Anne Arundel County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. Principal Julia Walsh said she's regularly sought "as a model for teaching techniques and equitable strategies.”

“This moment of gratitude helps me to reflect on all of the positive impacts that I make every day,” Cutler said. “Sometimes the day-to-day gets tough, but when things like this happen it reaffirms the importance of what we do to grow students into community partners we are proud of.”

 

While the College of Education led the new initiative, it received support from alumni business owners who also wanted to recognize their fellow alumni. , Carrol's Creek Cafe, , , , and donated gift cards, apparel, drinkware and more for the gift baskets, which are valued at $1,300. 

Jeimy Amaya, International High School at Langley Park 

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Alexis Cutler, Tyler Heights Elementary School 

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Pedro Gonzalez, Samuel Ogle Middle School 

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