After undergoing a rigorous application process, Alicia Pagan ’05 was named as one of only 10 recipients of the 2011 Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education (AFAEE), an award that recognizes outstanding teachers and principals for their commitment to excellence in Atlanta Public Schools.
“I’ve developed a reputation for being a teacher that can move kids,” explains Pagan, who works as a first grade teacher at the Charles R. Drew Charter School in Atlanta, Ga. “I get all the students in my school who are performing significantly below grade level. Thanks to all of the things I learned at HWS, especially from Professor of Education Charlie Temple, I have the reputation of being able to teach any student how to read at or above grade level by the end of the year. I think that’s one of the things that helped me to win the AFAEE award.”
In order to be eligible for the award, applicants must demonstrate excellence in three areas: raising student achievement, enhancing students’ self-esteem, and collaborating with multiple stakeholders for the benefit of Atlanta Public Schools students. Additionally, applicants must undergo a rigorous application process that includes an initial written application followed by an in-class observation session and, what Pagan describes as, a very intimidating interview.
In addition to recognizing outstanding educators, the AFAEE also aims to create a platform to further award winners’ success in APS by providing each recipient with $7,500 grants that include $3,500 in funding for a school project of the winner’s choice, $1,500 in funding for a professional development opportunity to increase the winner’s effectiveness in the school or classroom, and a personal stipend of $2,500.
“The bulk of the money goes to funding a classroom project,” explains Pagan, who has decided to use the $3,500 to start a bookstore for all of her school’s first graders. “A lot of first graders don’t have personal libraries but this is the year in which they’re learning to read. The bookstore will have physical picture books that the kids can purchase with points earned in class for good behavior and character. The end goal of this project is that, by the end of the year, every first grader will have 10 books at home that they can read on their own since research shows that the more students read at home for pleasure, the more successful they are in school.”
Pagan credits HWS with inspiring and shaping her as a teacher, from her first semester of working with America Reads to applying for the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the end of her first year.
“My development as a teacher came out of Demarest Hall,” says Pagan, who was part of the second graduating class of MAT students from the Colleges. “With the way that the program is structured, I spent a lot of time in Geneva classrooms. While working in Geneva elementary schools, I saw some of the situations that can come up while teaching in inner city public schools. The knowledge and experience I received from teaching in Geneva has definitely factored in my teaching in Atlanta. I’m teaching lessons that I saw taught there – math, drama and education courses – all factor into what I’m doing today.”
Pagan got her start as a teacher in Atlanta through Teach for America, which she decided to join after seeing a poster for the program outside of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning during her first year. During her two-year tenure with Teach for America, she worked as a first grade teacher at Perkerson Elementary School before she made the move to Drew Charter School in 2008.
Pagan graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in education. While at the Colleges, she was a recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Graduate Scholarship, a member of Hai Timiai, a founding member of the HWS chapter of Habitat for Humanity and studied abroad in Denmark . She also served as an America Reads tutor and site coordinator.