Greetings from Cyberspace!
My name is Melissa Allen, and I grew-up in Canyon, TX. I graduated from Canyon High School and then traveled to San Antonio, TX to attend Our Lady of the Lake University. What a change! From a small town to the big city–this girl was loving it. I felt right at home in the humidity, crowds, and cultural smorgasbord that was San Antonio. I loved it so much I decided to make it my new home. While I was in SA, I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences, worked for the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation department as a Community Center Director, earned my Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, and worked as the Assistant Director of Residence Life at OLLU. My experiences there both educationally and professionally definitely made me the person I am today. I was raised in Canyon, TX, but I definitely grew-up in San Antonio. The birth of my son brought me back to where I was raised, and we have lived in Amarillo for the past year.
You know…college students have a great deal in common with elementary students. They both need naps to function. They both love to do arts and crafts. Lunch is their favorite subject. They need lots of guidance to get things done. And they cannot spell or write a grammatically correct sentence. Thus, my journey to the classroom picked-up momentum. I have always worked with children–from babysitting in Jr. High, to working for Amarillo’s Summer Recreation Program through high school, tutoring during college, programming and running a community center, substitute teaching, and finally as a staff and student mentor at OLLU. Working with children is easy when you love kids and I have loved each job I have had doing so, but it was my college students who touched me the most and made me want to be in the classroom. I saw where there were gaps in what they came to college knowing and I wanted to fill those gaps. I wondered what happened, along the way, for them to have lost some of those basic, key fundamentals in reading and writing. Grammar, spelling, mechanics were few and far between with my students. Asking them to write a paragraph (non-technology assisted) was like asking them to produce a novel in a foreign language. The simple task of stringing sentences together was daunting and asking them to use punctuation and words spelled correctly was absurd–they couldn’t do it successfully and it frustrated everyone in my department. So, I felt compelled to try to fix the problem. We did vocabulary drills; I gave them writing homework; we read books aloud and collectively; we wrote and wrote and wrote some more…and then I realized they were not 4th graders, but college students and I needed to start earlier. I needed to get into the classroom while my passion was ignited, but life has a funny way of getting in the way and the Universe had other plans, so my educational journey was put on pause for a while–but the passion is still there.
My philosophy of teaching reading and writing is still evolving. I believe that every child can learn and our responsibility as professional educators is to meet those students where they are, and lift them up to where we want them to be. Reading and writing English is one of the most complicated, complex processes teachers facilitate. We must be teach our students to be word detectives and how to use clues to sound out words. We must be grammar ninjas and sneak in with punctuation when students have forgotten to place it in their writing. We must do voices and bring characters to life, so that reading is interesting and fun and we must always remember that English is a foreign language to everyone at first–we all had to learn it piece by piece, concept by concept, brick by brick until the foundation was laid.
I would love to teach any of the upper elementary grades, but I think teaching 4th or 5th graders would be so much fun. I think working with kids keeps you young, and keeps you on your toes. I also think laughter is another great way to stay youthful and light hearted and those kiddos have a great sense of humor and enough antics to keep anyone laughing. I feel that in my perfect world, the 4th and 5th graders would be the best match for my creative and quirky personality, though I would love the challenge and honor of teaching any grade.
So…that is the super-short version of who I am, and how I ended up on the path to education. I look forward to meeting many new friends also traversing the same challenging path.