Oh, deer! Maybell teacher Kristin Allen charmed by wildlife, rivers, love of the job
CRAIG — Outside of the city of Craig there is only one little school still in use in Moffat County. Maybell Elementary School is where students enrolled in kindergarten through fourth-grade are learning this fall with teacher Kristin Allen.
Allen originally began her career 23 years ago, taking some time off to raise her five children. With 13 total years in education, she stepped away from an instructional role at East Elementary School for the opportunity to tackle the new challenge of the multi-level Maybell school.
Craig Press: What were you like as a student?
Kristin Allen: From my earliest memories, I understood the power and importance of education. My parents were readers and read to us. They made sure I did my homework and helped me if I needed it. I liked school, cared about my growth and achievement, and wanted to please my parents and teachers.
CP: Have you taught in other places besides Moffat County? If so, where?
Allen: I began my teaching career in grades one and two in Fountain Fort Carson School District. We lived in Fountain, just south of Colorado Springs, for nine years.
CP: Why did you choose Moffat County?
Allen: My husband was hired as the principal of Sunset Elementary, and we relocated our family to Craig 13 years ago. We’d always thought we would like to raise our family in a small town. We were also drawn to the hiking, camping and fishing opportunities available in and around the community. I remember coming here for the job interview and being charmed by the deer walking around town. That has mostly worn off as the deer demolish my flowers every summer, but the charm of the community has remained. Moffat County is a beautiful place.
CP: How has your education, training, and work experiences qualified you for your role?
Allen: The role of Maybell teacher is a unique one. I am currently teaching five grade levels of standards in several subject areas. I have a master’s degree in reading instruction and spent a few years as a literacy interventionist, both in Fountain and here in Moffat County, experiences which have provided a solid foundation for effective literacy instruction in my classroom. Also, just over three years ago I took on the role of instructional coach at East Elementary. During my two years in that role my work required that I immerse myself in the standards, primarily literacy and math, at all grade levels. I feel that work provided me with a deep understanding of the standards, preparing me to tackle the wide range of teaching expectations required of me in this multi-grade context.
CP: What do you do if your students don’t “get it?”
Allen: I try to use multiple representations. It isn’t particularly effective to simply tell students about a concept. Rather, I try to show them the concept. Particularly in math, helping students develop an understanding of the ‘why’ behind concepts rather than simply being able to follow a set of memorized steps is essential for deep and lasting learning. I encourage students to model problems with visual representations, use hands on materials, and explain their thinking verbally and in writing.
CP: If a visitor came to your classroom or office and took a photo, what would they see in that photo?
Allen: All literacy and math instruction occurs in small groups. You would see me working with one group of students, while another group of students works with Shawnie Stone, our paraprofessional. She does a wonderful job of helping students to practice and reinforce skills that I have introduced. You would also see other groups on one of our classroom computers or iPads, practicing math facts, writing a story, reading or listening to a book, creating a presentation, or practicing a variety of literacy and math skills.
CP: How do you measure your success as an educator?
Allen: I measure my success largely based on two things: growth and relationships. Some might assume that success for a teacher is determined solely by academic achievement. Although I want all my students to achieve at high levels, my success measure is growth focused. It is my goal to ensure that all students grow at least a year in a year’s time, and for students who are behind, I work to create an even stronger growth trajectory so that they have the potential to catch up. Growth is the desired outcome, and this goal will be much more likely to occur in an environment built on positive relationships. Our classroom community is unique in its size and age range, and I work hard to ensure positive relationships are established between peers as well as between the adults and children.
CP: How are you involved in the community outside school?
Allen: The outdoors and music are deeply important to my husband and I, and these two loves led us many years ago to the Northwest Colorado Chapter of the Parrotheads. I appreciate their focus on our area rivers and open spaces and have participated in many river and highway cleanups, tree planting, and other activities that promote care for our outdoors and music in our community. I will be forever grateful to this community of people for leading us to our passion for river rafting. Rafting our region’s river canyons is nothing short of soul-feeding for me. I also spend many hours supporting our five children in sports, the arts and other activities that take us all over the state.
CP: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Allen: I took a risk stepping away from my role as an instructional coach at East, a job I loved and was successful at, surrounded by amazing teachers. I did it because I could not imagine a more professionally challenging experience than teaching kids from ages 5 to 12 all in one classroom. I am so glad I did. Had I not, I would never have been able to run outside with my students to watch cattle being driven down the highway. I would never have seen a student get picked up on a horse. I would not have seen siblings learning alongside one another, supporting and helping each other. I would not have seen the relationships between older and younger children, both learning and growing through the influence of the other. I would not have gotten to know this little group of learners whom I have grown so fond of. I really do love my job.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
Moffat County’s Dinosaur National Monument has been given a designation that could attract planet-watchers and star-finders from around the world.