Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards, presents award to Troy alumnus and fifth-grade teacher Eric Crouch.
Eric Crouch’s efforts to make learning fun and imaginative for fifth graders at Double Churches Elementary School in Columbus, Ga. have earned the Troy University alumnus national recognition.
Crouch recently was among the 35 educators nationwide, and the only one in the state of Georgia, to be honored with the Milken Educator Award. Created by the Milken Family Foundation, the Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Now in its 30th year, the Milken Award is often referred to as the “Oscars of Teaching.”
“It is a real honor, but it is a testament to the people that I’m around and the kids that I get to spend every day with,” Crouch said of the award. “It’s a validation of everything that everyone has done in my life to get me to where I am.”
While Crouch knew of a planned assembly, he had no idea the focus would be on him.
“I thought we were here to talk about a military grant that we had been talking about for some time,” Crouch said. “When they started putting numbers out and talking about a specific person getting an award, the assembly kind of deviated from the plan a little bit. It was a nice surprise. You don’t get into education for awards or trophies; you get into it for the kids and that’s why you stay in it. It is all about them and making a better future for them.”
Now in his first year as a fifth grade teacher, Crouch has a proven track record of helping students progress.
“The number one factor in students’ success is a great teacher in the classroom, and Mr. Crouch exemplifies that,” said Richard Woods, Georgia’s school superintendent. “He goes above and beyond in the classroom, creating a safe, fun, challenging and imaginative space for learning, and his students benefit as a result. I am so pleased he has been recognized with the prestigious Milken Educator Award.”
A strong advocate for the use of technology in the classroom, Crouch gathers formative assessment results daily and informs parents of their children’s progress via email, text, newsletters, FaceTime and social media. Students use iPads to scan QR codes that lead them to classroom assignments. Colleagues say Crouch is always working to help students “get it” and motivate hard-to-reach students.
Determined to bring 21st-century technology into his classroom, Crouch has funded more than 50 projects through DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding website through which public school teachers solicit donations from corporations and individuals. Target, News Corp and ESPN are among the companies that have helped Crouch buy photographic equipment, standing desks, iPads and a 3-D printer, which he has used for the first and fifth grade. Recognized as among the site’s most successful fundraisers, Crouch and his first-grade class were featured on a DonorsChoose.org billboard ad in Times Square.
It isn’t all about the use of technology, however. An avid Carpenter, Crouch has used a little “elbow grease” to help make the classroom learning experience fun, interactive and creative for his students. He built an indoor stage, bookshelves and a wooden boat for his first-grade classroom; he filled the boat with pillows and handmade wooden tables to give students a fun place to read and talk about books. Hand-painted stars and constellations covered the ceiling above the stage. He has built large tables for his fifth-grade classroom for students to collaborate on a new level.
Crouch’s influence in teaching excellence extends beyond the classroom. He is a member of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s Teacher Advisory Committee and Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods’ Teacher Advisory Panel.
Crouch received a Bachelor of Science in early childhood education from Columbus State University and a Master of Education in early childhood education from Troy University. Committed to sharing his education technology expertise, Crouch has led workshops for teachers in the Muscogee County School District and teaches “Technology in the Classroom” as a guest instructor at Columbus State University. He is currently pursuing his doctoral degree at Columbus State University in educational leadership.