Harrisonburg City School teachers Austin Mumaw (left) and Allison Eanes, with Eastern Mennonite University education department chair Professor Cathy Smeltzer Erb, were honored by student-winners of the Annual Robert B. and Gladys Hopkins Strickler Honored Teacher Essay Contest. Both earned their degrees and teaching credentials at EMU. (Courtesy photos)

Alumni teaching in Harrisonburg City Schools are honored by grateful students

Teachers Allison Eanes and Austin Mumaw were recently honored by two Harrisonburg City Schools students. Both are alumni of Eastern Mennonite University.

Second-grader Roxy Hernandez’s winning essay.

The 22nd Annual Robert B. and Gladys Hopkins Strickler Honored Teacher Essay Contest is hosted by the Massanutten Regional Library’s Central Library in Harrisonburg. The Stricklers were educators, and the contest was started by the couple’s son and daughter-in-law Robert Hopkins Strickler and his wife, Lorraine Warren Strickler, in their honor.

This year, more than 190 essays from students in Harrisonburg and Rockingham and Page counties were received. Michael Evans, the library’s director of advancement, and members of the Kiwanis Club chose the age-group and overall winners in four age brackets.

The eight winning students, their teachers and parents were invited to an evening ceremony where the essays were read and cash prizes awarded.

First place: Roxy Hernandez writing about Mr. Mumaw

Roxy’s art accompanied her essay.

Mumaw, a second-grade teacher at Spotswood Elementary School, was honored by Roxy Hernandez. She won the K-2 division with an essay and accompanying artwork that praised Mumaw for his kindness, for giving extra recess time, and being “awesome.”

Mumaw, a 2016 graduate who taught last year at Smithland Elementary, said that he was “humbled” by the award and for the recognition among “so many great teachers who were written about.”

“It is always so meaningful to know that your students look up to you and value the work that you do for them,” Mumaw said, “and also to see one of my own students being recognized for her essay and the voice that she shares. Roxy is a great student who works hard every day. She was a very deserving recipient as a result of her hard work and positive attitude.”

Runner-up: Maren McGehee writing about Ms. Eanes

Maren McGehee, runner-up in the sixth- through eighth-grade category, honored her former English teacher at Thomas Harrison Middle School. Eanes has taught there for five years.

“Besides her skill in teaching English,” Maren wrote, “she is also very kind.” Maren shared that when students joked about white supremacy in the classroom, Eanes involved all of the students in talking about the situation and extending forgiveness. “Not only did I learn lots about English, but I learned about how to treat others, and that there’s nothing you can’t accomplish if you set your mind to it and believe in yourself.”

Eanes was grateful for the recognition from a former student, especially at this time of the year, she said.

“I deeply love my work, as it fills me with an incredible sense of purpose, but it is also really challenging, especially in the winter months,” Eanes wrote in email. “Because of that, it was such an honor to hear that my former student had written an essay about me and my class. That sort of affirmation goes a long way and it gave me the fuel I needed to keep doing this work!”

For grades kindergarten through eighth grade, the first place essayist took home $125 and second earned $75.

Both Mumaw and Eanes were honored by EMU with the Teachers of Promise award during their senior year of pre-service teacher education.