Eat…or be eaten!
That was the activity listed on the whiteboard in Mrs. Lacey Todd’s fifth-grade science classroom at Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico. It was time to explore food chains, and the excitement among the students was electric.
The activity? Students were given packets of cards with different animals or edible items on them. Working in groups, they had to arrange the cards into mini food chains. What does an ant eat? Who would eat this log? What happens when the hawk and the eagle eat the same thing? Once their food chains were arranged, they were asked to explain their reasoning and the class got to go around and look at the other food chains. They were then asked to draw connections between their different food chains. What was similar about all the things at the top of their chains? What was similar about everything at the bottom of the food chain? What was different?
While the students energetically created their food chains, they were surrounded in their classroom by many animals appearing on the cards they were using. Mrs. Todd’s room is filled with tanks of fish, ocean creatures, lizards, and a bearded dragon named Pumpkin. At some point in the school year, there will be a chicken and they’ll all closely watch as chicks hatch out of eggs.
Last year, she brought her students on a trip to the ocean where they were able to explore the beauty and bounty of Maine’s coast. She came back from that trip with an idea to add a saltwater tank to her classroom so that she could bring the ocean to her students every day.
Mrs. Todd’s room is the perfect place to be a young scientist, and that’s exactly what she calls them. There’s even a bulletin board filled with diverse images of people exclaiming that they are scientists, underscoring that science is for everyone and Mrs. Todd’s class is a place where everyone belongs.
That sense of belonging comes up again and again during the visit to Mountain Valley. A parent said Mrs. Todd made school feel like home for her kids. A student said that once you are her student, you are family for life. A former student said that Mrs. Todd’s classroom felt like a second home. Another said that Mrs. Todd is the reason she feels proud of herself.
Lacey Todd is the 2023 Oxford County Teacher of the Year and a 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year finalist. Her colleagues, students, and community members make clear that she is the heart and soul of Mountain Valley Middle School.
Often the first to arrive and the last to leave, a colleague said that Mrs. Todd has an enthusiasm for every day of life, for the kids, and for the staff, that she makes connections with every student, and that students come to school because they know Mrs. Todd is there. She can be found greeting everyone as they arrive at school, and if you need it you can stop by “hug alley” for a loving embrace from Mrs. Todd to get you through the school day. She’ll even make sure you won’t miss your bus in the afternoon.
She also supports her colleagues and is a leader at the school. Staff come to her when they need help solving problems. One colleague said she changed them as an educator. Another said she teaches all of us. Someone else said that if you want to be an educator or stay in the profession, go see Lacey. Mrs. Todd has an incredible passion for teaching, for teaching science, and for always learning and growing.
That passion extends beyond the school walls, as Mrs. Todd strives to strengthen the connection between the school and community, engage parents, and champion Mountain Valley everywhere she goes.
When asked for a word to describe Mrs. Todd, some of the responses from her school community included inspiring, special, invested, nurturing, helpful, amazing, home, innovative, and dedicated.
All it takes is a day at Mountain Valley, and you too will feel like you are part Mrs. Todd’s family.