MOORESVILLE – Elizabeth Aston said she was “very, very shocked” to be named Mooresville Graded School District’s Teacher of the Year Aug. 20.
Aston has been a teacher at Park View Elementary for seven years – five as a special education teacher and two as a teacher for a therapeutic support class.
But she said she never expected to be recognized for it.
“I was shocked to say the least,” Aston said. “The competition was tough. I know some of the other teachers, and they’re very deserving of this as well.”
She was nominated by her school for the designation earlier this year and was competing against six other teachers who were nominated by their schools.
The application process for Teacher of the Year involves submitting a professional summary, participating in classroom observations by the school board and doing an interview.
“It’s very intimidating,” Aston said.
Aston’s job could also be described that way. She is responsible for leading a class of children with behavioral issues.
“We measure things in – the duration of noncompliance,” Aston said. “From ‘I’m not working, I’m ignoring you and putting my head down’ to throwing, kicking, biting. It varies in duration and also in severity, because obviously it’s much preferred that you just put your head down than the more physical (things).”
The first five years of Aston’s career were spent as a special education teacher – something she said she’s always wanted to do.
But she said she kept finding herself drawn to working with children with behavioral issues.
“It’s wonderful,” Aston said. “You get to see lots of academic growth as a teacher, but watching behavioral growth is something totally different. It pretty much teaches them how to function in society, and you can’t do anything without that.”
One of the most important parts of the class for her is giving the kids consistency.
“The first two to three weeks, we tell them how we want them to line up, how we want them to turn in in work. We go through all procedures and routines and expectations,” Aston said. “And we do that so often throughout year that people who are watching say, ‘You say the same things at the same time every day. Don’t kids get bored?’”
Aston said no – the kids rely on that level of structure. And she doesn’t get bored of it either.
“Even though I’m doing the same thing every day, the kids are not,” Aston said. “The kids have things that are not as structured and consistent, whether it be home life, medication or other concerns. … So every day is different.”
Aston said it feels meaningful to be able to provide that stability for her students.
“And you know, I love children and love what I do, and I can be very touchy-feely and (give) hugs,” Aston said. “But also, showing them consistency and that they can trust me and rely on me to be consistent is another way to show that I care about them.”
As she prepares for the first day of school Aug. 27, Aston said her award is making her view the year with slightly different eyes.
“But then it’s funny, because as soon as I start talking with someone about the school year, I’m right back in work mode,” she said.
Now that Aston has won the district’s Teacher of the Year award, she will move on to the regional and then – maybe – the state competition.
She finds that idea pretty intimidating as well.
“But I wouldn’t opt out, because I’m doing this for Mooresville,” Aston said.
She appreciated all the support she’s gotten from the community, even before she was nominated for this award.
“I genuinely appreciate everyone’s help doing what we do,” she said, “so the kids can have a good year.”