By Reed Jaworski
“I choose to spend my day with teenagers, don’t I have to be crazy,” joked Jamesville-DeWitt High School English teacher Terri Eaton. Over her several years at J-DHS she has changed the senior year English curriculum, reinstated the School Store, and brought a unique style to the classroom, both to benefit the students.
Corporate Communications is a class where students learn the fundamentals of marketing and business, and also get to run the School Store. Each year, the students get to pick what charity they are donating to; this year, it will be to various cancer fighting foundations, including the American Cancer Society. Mrs. Eaton said, “It is really rewarding for not only myself, but the students as well, to put our profit to a worthy cause.” Senior Joey Shapiro, a School Store employee, feels like Mrs. Eaton; “It makes me feel like I’m doing something to help people that need it.”
J-DHS principal Paul Gasparini describes Corporate Communications as Mrs. Eaton’s vision. “The School Store’s development, as well as the change in the department, is accredited to Mrs. Eaton,” said Mr. Gasparini. Mrs. Eaton believes Corporate Communications is a great class for any student, as it “teaches students practical skills that will lead to future stability.”
However, such a responsiblity as running a business like the School Store can be tough. Mrs. Eaton says that, sometimes it’s a source of anxiety for her. “It’s busy and stressful, time consuming, yet worthwhile because it is great for the kids,” said Mrs. Eaton. “The worst part is getting students to care and follow through on their agreements,” said Mrs. Eaton. She believes that working with part-time employees really inhibits success and flow. Since the class is only one semester long, students are only running the store for half a year, and they only have the class every other day for 82 minutes.
All of her hard work is worth it, though. The School Store has been well-received by the J-DHS student body and faculty as well. “It’s in a better location, and easy to get to,” said sophomore Ben Vahey. Vahey was able to purchase the Triche-Coleman t-shirt from the School Store. “I think it’s awesome. It encouraged students to not only have a School Store, but essentially run it,” said J-DHS English Department Chair Joe Dechick.
Mrs. Eaton believes that the experience students get from running it benefits them. "Education doesn't necessarily translate to success; it is all about experience," said the honest Mrs. Eaton. Although Mrs. Eaton does admit her education from her college alma mater Saint Bonaventure helps her to run this business class, she is a strong believer that her "experience in the marketing field" benefitted her the most as a teacher.
However, Mrs. Eaton didn't originally plan to be a teacher. Initially, she worked as a salesperson, and even earned her bachelor's degree from Saint Bonaventure in business and marketing. During her college years, Mrs. Eaton began coaching swimming and soccer part-time, which lead to her love of educating. This love lead her to go back to college and get certified, earning her master's degree in English education from Le Moyne College.
Using her diverse background, Mrs. Eaton changed the senior year curriculum with the help of her good friend and fellow J-DHS English teacher Constance Myers-Kelly. Mrs. Myers-Kelly said that, “Other schools had been doing (different senior year English course) for years, so we decided to make the change.” The change was to allow students to select what English course they could take to fulfill their senior year English credit requirement. Students have to pick two semester courses, ranging from Sports Literature, to Mythology, to Multicultural Literature, and Corporate Communications.
"Mrs. Myers-Kelly and I both put work into the change, trying to make (the material) more relevant to students," said the thoughtful Mrs. Eaton. Mrs. Eaton, Mrs. Myers-Kelly, and J-DHS Principal Paul Gasparini agree that the change up was great, and Mrs. Eaton believes the decisions students can make prepare them for the freedom they get in college. Mrs. Myers-Kelly thinks it’s a good change because it encourages students to do something they are interested in, which makes the teachers more happy to teach it, leading to a better learning experience for students.
However, the change has one key drawback, and that is the disconnection of teachers. “It’s a lot harder on our department to be able to communicate and organize, as the possible classes are very different,” said Mrs. Eaton. Although Mrs. Eaton and her department being split up makes her job more difficult, she still believes it was a necessary change, as it gives the best opportunities to the students. Since the change in the senior curriculum, Mrs. Eaton has been teaching the class Corporate Communications.
But that is not all she teaches; Mrs. Eaton is also part of the transition program for freshman J-DHS students who have a tough time adapting to the high school. “I love it. The kids are why I do it; I get to make a change in the kids’ outlook on working,” said Mrs. Eaton. She said that opening kids’ eyes, and convincing them to take pride in their work is very satisfying.
“She helps students who struggle, or even drop out of school in the transition program,” said Mr. DeChick. Mr. DeChick believes that the fact she is so hardworking, and isn’t afraid to take new approaches to teaching, makes her a great teacher. Mr. DeChick also mentioned that her attitude and determination really define her as a great person.
“Mrs. Eaton is a very personable person, and can help us find consensus, which brings us together,” said Mrs. Myers-Kelly. “She is a great agent of change, forcing us to look at our senior year curriculum,” said Mr. DeChick. Similar to Mrs. Myers-Kelly, Mr. Gasprini said, “she is the most positive, personable, and upbeat person you can meet.” Mrs. Myers-Kelly said that Mrs. Eaton has been a big part in the department’s success. She also believes that the friendly qualities of Mrs. Eaton make her a good teacher.
Freshman Patrick Gillson and senior Nathan Gilchriest agree with Mrs. Myers-Kelly. “The fact that she is a nice person makes students more inclined to pay attention, and also to disrespect her less,” said Gilchriest. Gillson said, “that the way she greets people every class with a smile really sets a good mood in the classroom.” Seniors Max Mastine and Shapiro both agree that Mrs. Eaton’s humor shows she cares about her students.
Mrs. Myers-Kelly believes that Mrs. Eaton’s ability to listen, support, and connect with people helps her to be a great teacher. “I like to think I’m a good teacher, I do what I believe is right, even if it isn’t what the state thinks, such as standardized testing,” said Mrs. Eaton. “I enjoy being able to give kids the chance to develop. Seeing the kids grow after working with them is my favorite part of the job,” said Mrs. Eaton.