School Day Surprise: 3 Alums Honored for Classroom Impact

In New Effort, College of Education Leaders Deliver Balloons, Baskets and a Bonus $1K

Teacher Appreciation Week typically means catered lunches, discounts at Staples and handwritten notes from parents and students.

Three local educators also got some unexpected recognition from their alma mater.

In a new initiative, representatives of the 含羞草研究所鈥檚 College of Education dropped by the workplaces of three of its alums on Wednesday to honor them.


Jeimy Amaya 鈥10, M.Ed. 鈥24, an English teacher at the International High School at Langley Park, Alexis Cutler 鈥16, a second-grade teacher at Tyler Heights Elementary School in Annapolis, and Pedro Gonzalez 鈥06, 鈥06, a Spanish teacher at Samuel Ogle Middle School in Bowie, each were showered with praise, a balloon bouquet, a gift basket filled with items from UMD-alumni owned businesses and $1,000.

鈥淲e wanted to create an opportunity to celebrate all the ways that teachers have a transformative impact on their students鈥 lives and school communities,鈥 said Dean Kimberly Griffin. 鈥淲e just wanted to say thank you.鈥

Amaya, the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants and a first-generation student from Prince George鈥檚 County, recently earned national board certification while completing her master鈥檚 degree. She joined the predominantly Spanish-speaking school in 2016 and was first runner-up for the county鈥檚 2023 Teacher of the Year Award. Amaya recalled Wednesday the first time she served as a substitute teacher at a Spanish immersion school and the reaction from students who never had a Latina teacher, and who made her feel needed.

鈥淚 didn鈥檛 expect this at all,鈥 Amaya said of Wednesday鈥檚 recognition. 鈥淚鈥檓 shocked and excited.鈥

Gonzalez, known as Se帽or G, has taught at Ogle Middle School since shortly after graduating.

There he鈥檚 known for his high expectations, sense of humor and success in developing students鈥 fluency in Spanish; he also hosts a game club and produces the school News TV show and has deejayed school dances, emceed basketball games and streamed live video of school events for those unable to attend in person. He returned to teaching after recovering from devastating injuries sustained in a May 2023 accident.

鈥淚 don鈥檛 feel like I need to be recognized,鈥 Gonzalez said. 鈥淭his is not a hard thing to do because it comes from my heart. It鈥檚 effortless to teach middle school. I just love it.鈥

Cutler has been at Tyler Heights since 2016 and leads the Start the Adventure in Reading (STAIR) tutoring program and the Homework Mentoring Club. She was a 2023 finalist for Anne Arundel County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. Principal Julia Walsh said she's regularly sought "as a model for teaching techniques and equitable strategies.鈥

鈥淭his moment of gratitude helps me to reflect on all of the positive impacts that I make every day,鈥 Cutler said. 鈥淪ometimes the day-to-day gets tough, but when things like this happen it reaffirms the importance of what we do to grow students into community partners we are proud of.鈥


While the College of Education led the new initiative, it received support from alumni business owners who also wanted to recognize their fellow alumni. , Carrol's Creek Cafe, , , , and donated gift cards, apparel, drinkware and more for the gift baskets, which are valued at $1,300. 

Jeimy Amaya, International High School at Langley Park 

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Alexis Cutler, Tyler Heights Elementary School 

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Pedro Gonzalez, Samuel Ogle Middle School 

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