Students in Alane Eaton's third-grade class at Julia Randall Elementary School may not always get along, but they agree on one thing: Mrs. Eaton makes learning fun.
Her peers think so, too. They nominated Eaton as Wal-Mart's Good Works Teacher of the Year.
On April 28, at a ceremony at Julia Randall Elementary, Wal-Mart officials announced that Eaton had been selected as one of the 3,000 teachers in the country to receive the Good Works honor and a $500 education grant for her school.
"I'm very honored with the recognition," Eaton said Tuesday. "We have outstanding teachers in this district, and it's a pleasure to work with them."
Eaton has been a teacher with the district for two years. She worked in Payson as a substitute teacher and as a classroom aide before taking over classroom duties as a third-grade teacher at JRE.
The school's principal, Sue Clark, said the award is highly competitive.
"She was nominated and there was an extensive application that went to the corporation," Clark said.
She said Eaton won based on her outstanding teaching techniques and service to the community.
"She's involved in Payson Area Habitat for Humanity and teaches Bible school," Clark said.
"I think she's special because she helps us with our math and makes it really fun," said Lanie Gugino, one of Eaton's students.
Eaton explained one of her "fun" math projects. She said she used a giant hopscotch with 36 squares to teach the students how to multiply by threes.
Another student, Nicole
Goebel, said Eaton is "always nice and she's never mean."
Eaton laughed and said she thought her two daughters, Hannah, 7, and Kaiah, 10, might disagree.
"Ask my girls if I'm mean," Eaton said. "They say I'm mean sometimes."
Eaton said JRE is like a home away from home for her and her daughters, and her students are like family.
"Do we always get along?" Eaton asked her students.
"No," they shouted.
"But we treat each other like family," Eaton said. "Families love each other even when they have hurt feelings. We say we're sorry and go on."
At the end of each school week, during the last recess of the day, Eaton and her students run to the wall in the playground and run all the way back, not stopping to rest, not walking. Those who run both ways get a cube, an incentive Eaton uses for awards and discipline.
The cubes are given for good behavior and they're taken away for disruptive behavior, and once a week, student teams with the most cubes get special prizes. They get other rewards, too, trips to the park, time to write to their pen pals in Pine, and what Eaton calls "cool books" to read.
Recently, when the students completed three weeks of testing, taking the AIMS test, the Stanford 9, and a 102-question AIMS pilot test, Eaton took her students out to the playground and had them blow bubbles.
"When we took those tests we were so tired of filling in the bubbles, we went out and got real bubbles and blew them away," Eaton said.
Nic Creighton, another of Eaton's students, may have summed up his teacher's award-winning qualities best. "She helps us be better and smarter," he said.
And that, said Eaton, is what teaching is all about.