One room, one heart: Kristin Allen loves working at Maybell Elementary
For the 19 students who attend Maybell Elementary, they all spend part of their day with their teacher, Kristin Allen, who manages all six grades in the school. From kindergarten to 5th grade, Allen manages her students’ learning while also working with two paraprofessionals, Jamie Coupe and Corinne Coombs, to whom she gives most of the credit for the school’s success.
Allen’s classroom is colorful — the walls almost covered from floor to ceiling with educational posters and students’ art. Books line the shelves, and small tables and chairs fill the room. She’s taught for years, but she said there’s something about how flexible a one-room schoolhouse that makes teaching at Maybell particularly special.
“I started working in schools about — my oldest daughter was born my first year of teaching — 24 years ago, but I took a long period off as well when my children were small, so about 12 years,” she said. “And then I went back to teaching in Craig. I taught fifth grade for several years at Sandrock, and then I was an instructional coach at East. Then I saw this job posted, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s a challenge.’”
Allen said most of her job is about balancing each student’s needs. This year also has the most students the elementary school has ever had, so making sure each grade group gets the instructional time they need is important, she said. Now it’s like second nature.
“It’s much more natural now than it used to be,” she said. “It was really, really difficult the first year. Now, I’m in a rhythm. I know the curriculum really, really well. Actually, my experience as a coach really helped me with that, because I got to know the standards for every grade level as a coach for those two years. So I already understood what every grade level expectation was. I was very familiar with our curriculum that the rest of the District uses. The hardest part is figuring the schedule out at the beginning.”
To Allen, Maybell Elementary is a community that transcends age divides between her students. Because they spend all day together — as opposed to traditional school environments that separate grades all day — she gets to see them connect in ways that other students might not get to.
“Another thing that I really love about this environment is that it’s just us,” she said. “I don’t really see the kinds of bullying that I have seen in other classroom settings, because they only have each other. We have to care about each other because it’s just the 19 of us.”
Outside of the classroom, Allen said that the school brings the community of Maybell together. Often, families and community members bring treats for the kids, and if cattle or sheep are being moved outside, the class will take time to watch the ranchers at work. It’s not uncommon for a student to be related to the ranchers who move their livestock around the school, adding an additional personal connection for the elementary school.
One of Allen’s favorite parts of being Maybell’s teacher, though, is getting to see her students grow up over the years she has them in her classroom.
“I was looking through some photos trying to find something for a project I was doing personally. But I saw photos of my students who are now in fourth and fifth grade when they were in first grade,” she said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, look at them, they were babies. And now they’re almost adolescents.’ And I watched that happen. Because you would never get that opportunity in any other educational setting.”
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Tanner Coulter and his family were looking for somewhere to spread out a bit.