Proud Pirate shares lessons with young students, new teachers

Excited voices and giggles rise around Crystal Hodges’ kindergarten classroom. Hodges ’03 ’05 stands and claps. Her class claps back in response and settles into quiet. Hodges choreographed the steps to gain her students’ attention and uses them to guide students through stations where they learn words, math and spelling.

Amid pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance performance at East Carolina University, Hodges was asked to teach dance to others. The experience changed her plan of being a professional dancer and led to a career in elementary education. She’s completing her 18th year as a classroom educator, currently teaching at Tommy’s Road Elementary School in Goldsboro.

Crystal Hodges is a Pirate educator teaching kindergarten in Goldsboro.“During my junior year of college, I was asked to teach dance classes at Dancin’ Daze in Mount Olive. I discovered that I really liked sharing my love of dance with others, so I decided to continue on to graduate school to pursue my next goal of becoming a teacher,” Hodges said.

Hodges graduated cum laude in dance performance with a minor in business administration. She followed that with a Master of Arts in Teaching in elementary education. Hodges, a Wayne County native, chose ECU because of the quality of education offered and because it was close to home.

She said she developed stamina and discipline in class and performances at ECU. She immersed herself in auditioning, performing in shows and working behind the scenes. One meaningful experience during her time at ECU was performing in four spring dance performances at McGinnis Theatre.

“I absolutely loved it,” she said. “I really learned what it was like to prepare for a performance on a pre-professional level.”

Discipline and stamina are crucial to her career as an educator. She serves as a beginning teacher mentor to 10 new Wayne County teachers and is part of the school improvement team and hospitality committee at Tommy’s Road. She became a national board certified teacher in 2017 and holds an academically and intellectually gifted certification.

Hodges aims to help her students build good character and focus on their social and emotional learning.

Hodges aims to help her students build good character and focus on their social and emotional learning.

Hodges appears at ease, keeping her 19 5-year-olds on task. She sounds out words with students, praising them as they match the correct pictures to the letters and words as they practice. She listens to students repeat vowels using a computer program. They are within her reach if she needs to redirect them or reset the lesson.

All of the lessons are part of the required curriculum. Hodges also presents the lessons to help the students build good character and focus on their social and emotional learning. She hopes her students will leave her classroom positive, well-rounded and ready to do well in the next grade.

Hodges said the late Scott Thomson made a positive impact on her life as an aspiring teacher. She said Thomson believed in her and was always encouraging in giving feedback. Hodges said she would not be where she is without the support she received at ECU and through family, friends and colleagues.

She pays the encouragement forward in her efforts as a mentor. Hodges and her new teacher mentees meet regularly to discuss teaching techniques and any challenges they face. Those who teach at the same school have the additional benefit of visiting Hodges’ classroom and seeing her in action.

Jamison DeLallo ’21 said it has been wonderful to learn from Hodges and see the wonderful environment she’s created in her classroom. DeLallo has picked up strategies from observing Hodges, including how to keep students moving through their learning stations. “There’s no wasted time in her class,” DeLallo said.

Hodges said she feels it is important to give back and to support others in their endeavors. In addition to being a mentor at school, she also supports her community, serving as the appearance coordinator and production choreographer for the Miss Goldsboro Scholarship Organization. She also is a board member and the education chairperson for the Wayne County Historical Association at the Wayne County Museum.