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Extraordinary Educator: Alicia Samuels

Great communities have great schools. High Point Schools Partnership creates impactful connections between our schools and the wider community to ensure students and their families are supported and can reach their full potential in High Point schools.

Part of High Point Schools Partnerships’ mission is to improve the image of our schools through storytelling. Who better to tell the stories of High Point’s schools than the people experiencing it first-hand? In this series of articles, we will highlight our 2022 High Point Extraordinary Educators as we dive deeper into what keeps them motivated in the face of constant challenges.

2022 Extraordinary Educator: Alicia Samuels

Alicia Samuels started her teaching career at Allen Jay Elementary four years ago. She stays at AJE because of the family-like atmosphere that permeates the school and the community in which it serves. AJE boasts a diverse student and teacher population, and as an international teacher, this diversity helped her to easily fit in. In addition, the outstanding leadership of the institution inspires and motivates teachers and students to accomplish professional and personal goals because we all feel valued and supported.

Carla Flores-Ballesteros, the principal of Allen Jay Elementary, describes Ms. Samuels as “She is creative and full of positive energy.” She “integrates technology, arts, and literacy with standards in her daily math lessons.”

According to Flores-Ballesteros, Ms. Samuels “can get anyone excited about learning.” “She takes to heart her students’ progress and growth, so she gathers and analyzes data regularly to personalize learning.”

Ms. Samuels wants her students and their parents to know “that I am a visiting teacher from Jamaica, who has every scholar’s interest at heart, irrespective of class, color or creed.” 

She goes on to say “I am also a caring, creative, dedicated, and passionate teacher, who always gives my best to ensure that scholars achieve their highest potential. For me, success isn’t just a destination, it is a continuous journey, and I look forward to your support as we continue this journey together.”

Q: What inspired you to become an educator?

A: I was inspired to become an educator because of the positive impact that my teachers had on my educational journey. They worked assiduously to ensure that as students we achieved our highest potential, irrespective of our social status. Educators were also highly appreciated and respected in my community in Jamaica, playing many roles for example mediators, community leaders, etc. Having a neighbor who was an educator and also living with a cousin who was an educator motivated me to want to join this prestigious and highly respected profession because I saw these individuals as role models.  Another inspiration was the passion for seeing students in my community achieving their educational goals and becoming productive members of society, because of having effective educators.  With these experiences, I saw the need to enter this profession and serve, in an attempt to continue building my community, helping children achieve excellence despite their socioeconomic status. A scholar’s status should not define them, and I know education is power, in that it can help individuals surpass the status quo and become fully functioning agent changers in society.

Q: What’s your teaching/leadership style?

A: My teaching style is the activity style, whereby I act as a facilitator, helping scholars develop critical thinking and learning skills through active engagement and infusing the arts in all that I do. To a lesser extent, I also think that I have a hybrid or blended style, in that I infuse my personality and interest to meet my scholar’s needs. Making learning fun, and having the scholars actively engaged is of paramount importance in my classroom. On a daily basis, we create songs, jingles, drama, or poems to help with conceptual understanding. We create and post personalized anchor charts to reinforce concepts. I integrate technology in all my lessons to stimulate interest and to ensure that my scholars are technologically ready for the 21st century. I use manipulatives to aid scholars’ understanding of concepts. I provide opportunities for collaborative grouping, where scholars explore and use creative and critical thinking skills to complete tasks. I liaise and collaborate with my colleagues here and in Jamaica, to learn and share ideas to grow and strengthen my teaching skills to better serve my scholars. Last but not least, I ensure that at all times, my classroom feels safe and welcoming, and is conducive to learning.

Q: Do you have a classroom motto or philosophy you abide by? Why?

A: I have multiple mottos and philosophies that I abide by. I enter the classroom knowing that; “Every child can learn, and every child must learn.” With this in mind, it is my responsibility to know and understand all of my scholars and find effective ways to cater to each need.

Being that I am currently a math teacher, I always instill in the scholars’ mindsets that “Math is Life” and on a daily basis, provide opportunities for scholars to make real-life connections in the Mathematics classroom. 

Another philosophy that I use to motivate myself is a quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept, were toiling upwards through the night.” This gem is very personal to me because I can connect to the sentiment of it, as I spend many late nights toiling relentlessly, planning effective lessons to ensure the success of all scholars.

Q: What’s your favorite part about every day?

A: The best part of my day is going into the classroom to execute a well-planned lesson and to see and hear how my students respond to the lesson.  Reflecting on the “a-ha” moments, my scholars’ level of engagement and enthusiasm, encourages me to bring the best version of myself to the classroom every day.

Q: What’s your most memorable moment as an educator?

A: My most memorable moment as an educator was having a sixth-grade scholar in my class, who aspired to attend a particular traditional high school in Jamaica but doubted his ability because he was performing below grade level and was from a low socio-economic background. As his teacher, I learned what was of interest to him and integrated this into daily instructions, and gave him extra support after school to help with his academic growth. He excelled in the national placement exam and earned a place at his high school of choice. I also sought financial assistance to help him through high school, and remained in contact, motivating and encouraging him through university, where he achieved a degree in Medical Science and is now a Medical Doctor.

Q: Is there any other information you would like us to share with the community?

A: It takes a village to raise a child, and I am humbled and thankful to be part of this village. I implore other stakeholders within the community to join forces with Allen Jay Elementary as we invest and work together to create tomorrow’s leaders.

Ms. Samuels is just one of High Point’s 2022 Extraordinary Educators. Tune in for the next few weeks to hear more stories and inspiring moments from our local teachers!

Thank you so much to Alicia Samuels for your dedication to High Point’s students. Congratulations on being selected as your school’s 2022 Extraordinary Educator!

To find out more about High Point Schools Partnership and our work, please visit our Facebook page and check out our page on Guilford Education Alliance’s website.

Article written by High Point Schools Partnership Staff