Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: Elaine Hill (CT '22)

March 9, 2023

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Elaine Hill (CT ’22) credits mentors for helping her shape her practice, from content and organization to creativity and leadership: “All my role models are committed to helping others succeed.” She received her Milken Educator Award at the Academic Academy at Michael F. Wallace Middle School in Waterbury on January 12, 2023.

Milken Family Foundation: What do you like about working with elementary students?

Elaine Hill (CT ’22): I love that they are eager and excited to learn. I love introducing projects to them that I know they will want to jump right into. Each year my students come to me from over 15 different elementary schools, so our school is new for all of them. We get to spend so much time together throughout the year, growing relationships and becoming one family. My elementary students are funny, sweet, caring, forgiving, helpful, curious and resilient. We have so much fun!

MFF: What are the benefits of the Academy’s school-within-a-school format?

Elaine: The Academy students can enjoy the benefits of a big school while also having a tight-knit community of students and teachers. At the Academy we are able to move at a faster pace but also dive deeper into the various topics we cover.

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MFF: How do students benefit from the Academy’s mentoring program?

Elaine: The younger students have an older student to look up to, ask questions, and get academic and sometimes social help. The older students get to take on a leadership role, help and work with younger students, and develop communication skills. It helps build our Academy community. [Elaine talks more about the Academy's mentoring program in the video below.]

MFF: How did you end up in education?

Elaine: My mom was a teacher and my favorite person, so of course I wanted to be just like her as a child. I used to play “school” at home with my sister and friends. In high school I still wanted to be a teacher, so I went to college to get my certification.

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MFF: How did your first year of teaching go?

Elaine: That year was the hardest, without a doubt. I felt completely overwhelmed and underprepared. But I had supportive principals and coworkers. I worked on the weekends, went to school early, and stayed late. I learned so much through trial and error and was lucky to have teachers in my building who were willing to spend the time to help me. I remember my principal telling me that by January it starts to get easier, compared to the first few months, which I found to be true.

My first class will always hold a special place in my heart. We did so many fun hands-on activities. I learned so much alongside them.

MFF: Who are your role models?

Elaine: In addition to my mom, I have many favorite teachers from elementary to college. There were teachers and professors who I felt believed in me and some who knew their content so well I was able to absorb tremendous information. As a teacher, I have learned (and continue to learn) so much from my fellow educators.

I try to take a bit from all of my role models: Shelly Hill’s innovative and meaningful lessons, Lisa Romano’s charisma and passion, Vincent Balsamo’s leadership and management, Marissa Waters’ calmness and organization, Annie Minton’s creativity and flexibility. I also love being able to talk and share ideas with my friends who are teachers, in addition to leaning on them for support. All my role models are committed to helping others succeed.

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MFF: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?

Elaine: I was completely shocked. We did not know what the big assembly was for. I did not know what to do or what to say. I remember looking at the adults around me and asking, “Do I go walk down there?” It felt like time was moving in slow motion. The few seconds after my name was announced felt like 10 minutes.

MFF: How did students respond to your Milken Award?

Elaine: That day, my students were just thrilled to be in the gymnasium since so many important leaders were attending. My Milken Award came as a surprise to all of us. You can tell from the pictures that my students were stunned and excited. It was a huge celebration for our class. My students are very intrigued about my trip to Los Angeles for the MEA Forum. I hope this Award highlighted to them that teaching is an honorable career in many ways.

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MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?

Elaine: Success for myself is giving 100 percent to my students. I want them to be well-rounded and lifelong learners. I want them to stay curious, keep asking questions, and finding answers. Success is knowing what you want to do and doing it because it makes you happy.

MFF: What do you hope students remember from their time with you?

Elaine: I hope they remember that learning is fun, and school is a safe and happy place where they have supportive classmates and teachers. I want them to remember to be kind and work hard.

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