Eric Crouch has one rule for his students at Double Churches Elementary in Columbus, Georgia: Make Mr. Crouch proud of you. And they do just that. During his five-year tenure in teaching, Crouch has already developed a solid track record of helping his students progress. According to anecdotal data, in 2014-15, 100% of Crouch’s first-grade students met or exceeded goals in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. Many students at the high-need school, which serves primarily military families and sees high rates of transition in the classroom, read above grade level. Crouch started teaching fifth grade at the school this year after having previously taught first-grade and served as first-grade level chair.
In his classroom, dubbed the "Man Cave," Crouch pushes students to strive for excellence. When he taught first grade, his students read and passed comprehension tests to meet their daily goals. Crouch handed out medals—and then stretched the goal for the next day. In his first-grade classroom, he rang a cowbell and shouted out students’ accomplishments, which built peer excitement and offered recognition for student achievement. Now, he has students slam-dunk balls into a trash can when they meet their goals. When the can is filled, the class has a large celebration to mark reaching their collective goals. For example, in literacy, Crouch's first-grade students read more than 35 million words and checked out nearly 50,000 books. Crouch continues to instill a passion for reading among his fifth-grade students. In just nine weeks, they have read six million words—and counting.
In the fifth grade, Crouch is preparing his students for the rigor of the state standards by working them towards answering questions critically, thoughtfully, and learning curriculum in creative ways. He is allowing his students to see connections across the curriculum by integrating social studies with reading and science. In the nine-week period guiding his class, he has already seen significant improvements in performance. When he started teaching the fifth grade, 13 students were below-tier level; that number has decreased to five, with progress still underway.
Crouch is a strong advocate for technology in the classroom and uses it both for learning and to build bridges with families. He 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. Crouch has shared his fundraising expertise with his colleagues, coaching them as they submit their own requests through the site.
An avid carpenter, Crouch 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. His fifth-grade students are also benefiting from his love of carpentry; he has built large tables for his 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.
Press release: Columbus Fifth-Grade "Technology Superstar" Eric Crouch Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Georgia