The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated ® - Eta Xi Omega Chapter in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has announced the recipient of their “First Year Educator” award which was spearheaded by the chapter’s Uplift Our Local Community Initiative.

The Eta Xi Omega Chapter acknowledges the profound influence educators have on young individuals. Also recognizing that first-time teachers in Alabama are 50% more likely to leave within their first three years of employment said the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services.

The $1,000 grant aims to address the attrition rate of first-year educators in Alabama.

2023 First Year Educator Award Winner - Jeniqua Johnson

Mary K, Townsquare Media
Mary K, Townsquare Media

Johnson is a first-grade educator at Southview Elementary School in Tuscaloosa. She said that the grant would help provide her students with more resources to increase differentiated learning. She felt it would make a profound impact on her English Language Learner students and students with autism.

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Ronika Amerson, Southview Elementary Principal shared that Johnson is “special because of her unique ability to connect with her students and parents. She is soft spoken but firm with her students. I often refer to her as a "quiet storm." She is data-driven and goes far and beyond to ensure students' success.”

Mary K, Townsquare Media
Mary K, Townsquare Media

“The first year of teaching is a period of immense growth. First-year teachers learn not only about their students but also about themselves as educators,” said Dr. Shanté Morton, President of the Eta Xi Omega Chapter.

The grant funding will be utilized to procure additional headphones and a diverse selection of educational games in multiple languages for the classroom.

“Johnson builds strong relationships with students,” said Amerson. “Students know that she expects the best from them and she believes in their ability to perform well. She takes time to know her students individually.”

The first-year educator was presented by the graduate chapter members of Eta Xi Omega during the lunch period at Southview Elementary with students, staff, and other educators. She received the $1,000 grant, a certificate acknowledging her contribution, balloons, and a beautiful floral arrangement from Sue’s Flowers in Northport, Alabama.

Mary K, Townsquare Media
Mary K, Townsquare Media

Tactics to Help Retain First-Year Educators

“Retention of first-year teachers is vital because many leave the profession within the first year mostly due to stress. To help retain first-year teachers, we provide support through professional development, mentoring, and coaching cycles,” said Amerson. “Most importantly first-year teachers benefit from wellness checks to avoid early burnout.”

Morton added that “with the right support, mentorship, and a commitment to continuous improvement, first-year teachers can thrive in their classrooms, making a lasting impact on the lives of their students and contributing to the field of education in meaningful ways.”

Eta Xi Omega Chapter hopes to continue this grant award in 2024. If you are interested in supporting this initiative you can contact us at

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