By Arthur Cribbs, Howard University News Service
As the bell rings signifying 8:30 a.m., Leah Pearson greets her students and their parents as they trickle into her pre-kindergarten age-4 (PK4) classroom. While this ritual represents the beginning of the day for Pearson’s class, she is two hours into her day of teaching at the Congress Heights campus of Eagle Academy Public Charter School. For Pearson, she abides by a similar routine each day at work.
6:30 a.m.: Pearson’s day at work begins as she supervises Before Care for students that arrive early.
8:00 a.m.: She then travels to her classroom, preparing the space for her students, ensuring a safe learning environment.
8:30 a.m.: Students along with their parents begin to trickle into the classroom. Pearson greets them as they arrive.
9:15 a.m.: Pearson explains morning procedures and classroom rules, informing the students of the plans for the day. Teaching, reading and engaging begins. During this time, Pearson incorporates a lesson, which typically follows the theme for the day.
12:15 p.m.: Pearson goes on her two-hour break, which she uses as a lunch and planning period. Her students, who are supervised by a teaching assistant or another adult, eat, have recess and nap before Pearson returns at 2:15 p.m.
2:15 p.m.: Pearson returns to the classroom, teaching and engaging with her students until dismissal at 3:30 p.m.
In her 20th year as an educator, Pearson is fulfilling a lifelong dream of teaching young children. Growing up in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Pearson was an only child, raised by her single mother. Her mother passed away by age 12, leading Pearson’s grandmother to raise her. As the eldest of eight grandchildren, Pearson often served as a babysitter to her younger cousins. Through her years of babysitting, Pearson found her passion in working with children and in education. She said, “Seeing the joy of the student’s faces, I knew I wanted to be a teacher.”
She gained experience in this field, spending her high school years volunteering at Prince George’s County Public Schools. Furthering her passion, Pearson earned a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Ashford University. During her college years, Pearson worked at a daycare center for four-year-old children. Soon after graduating from college, she was offered her first job at Arts and Technology Academy, teaching kindergarten for six years before moving to Eagle Academy, where she has taught for the last 14 years. While teaching, she went back to school to earn a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Ashford.
Spending the entirety of her career in early-aged teaching, Pearson understands the importance of childhood education. “Teaching students as early as three gives the opportunity to help them with their social and emotional skills. They can get an early start on how to share, take turns and interact with children their own age,” she said.
In her two decades as an educator, Pearson’s cohorts, from other teachers to principals alike, recognize her dedication.
Eagle Academy Principal Melanie Leonard praised Pearson’s willingness to serve various roles.
“The past two years, she has been willing to receive transfer students with significant behavior challenges from other classrooms, and helped them turn their behavior around through love and consistency,” said Leonard.
In addition to teaching PK4, Pearson serves as the grade level team lead. Leonard mentioned that Pearson keeps the other teachers accountable in this role, exhibiting dependability and positivity to her team.
Fellow teacher at Eagle Academy, Sydney Gahnz said of Pearson, “She always wants to find new ways to teach her students and help them to become the best that they can be. She never gives up on students when they don’t understand something, just pushes their thinking in different ways.”
Gahnz met Pearson just under two years ago as an urban teacher resident but still considers her as an inspiration in the teaching world. Gahnz championed Pearson’s work ethic. “Even when she is sick or has things going on in her personal life, she never lets that get in the way of her work and the students.”
With her work ethic, Pearson is only looking to improve her craft. She spends her off time looking to enroll in doctoral programs. Furthering her education, Pearson aspires to do more administrative tasks and eventually work her way to become a principal. Additionally, she hopes to teach college courses in Early Childhood Education.
For now, Pearson remains dedicated to each of her students and adamant about the value of education. She lives by the Michelle Obama quote, “The one thing people can’t take away from you is your education. And it is worth the investment.”