Award inspires teacher to reach for higher goals
Michelle Allder, Cassville Primary School first grade teacher, was honored with the Cassville Community Teacher Association's Young Educator of the Year Award in May. The achievement has inspired Allder to set new goals for herself as an educator.
"I was so shocked," said Allder. "When Mrs. (Catherine) Weaver (Cassville Primary School principal) was introducing the award winner, I didn't realize she was talking about me.
"Then, she quoted something my husband had said," said Allder. "I felt very honored. I have only been teaching for two years. Just to be nominated by your peers for this type of honor is very exciting."
Allder began her teaching career at the age of 30, when she enrolled in a four-year program at the University of Missouri.
"When I was in the sixth grade, I realized that I wanted to be a teacher," said Allder. "I had a teacher who would go out of the way to do things to help me learn. She even taught me to crochet at recess. She really made a difference in my life."
Although motherhood postponed Allder's goal of becoming a teacher, her children and family offered the inspiration she needed to return to college a few years ago.
"When my oldest son was in the third grade, he was really struggling and his teacher told me that she couldn't help him," said Allder. "I decided then that I needed to be a teacher, because I wouldn't give up that way."
While earning her bachelor's degree in education, Allder completed a year of student teaching in northwest Arkansas.
"I had the opportunity to work with some awesome teachers," said Allder. "I think that really prepared me for teaching in a classroom."
After earning her degree, Allder, who lives in Garfield, Ark., began looking for a teaching position in northwest Arkansas or southwest Missouri. When she applied for a third grade teaching position at Cassville Intermediate School, she was offered a kindergarten teacher position instead, but before the school year began, she was placed in a first grade classroom.
"First grade is where they learn to read," said Allder. "When I started, I thought, 'How am I going to teach these kids to read?' That is such a big responsibility.
"Now, I love it," said Allder. "It is so exciting to see how much they learn and grow. First grade is the grade where you see the most growth."
At the end of each school year, Allder asks her students to write a letter describing what they enjoyed about the year.
"Many of the letters say, 'Mrs. Allder taught me how to read,'" said Allder. "That is so great. I really want them all to be successful, and I work to make sure that each of them are successful in their own way."
Allder goes above and beyond her normal teaching duties to ensure each of her students attain success. She even offers one-on-one tutoring after school.
"I try to teach them that they can do whatever they set their minds to," said Allder. "I want each of them to move as far forward in learning as they can. As long as each of those kids knows success during the year, I feel like I have done my job."
Receiving the Young Educator of the Year honor has inspired Allder to reach for higher education goals. She is considering pursuing a master's degree in education. She also wants to complete training to become a reading specialist.
"I love teaching them to read," said Allder. "I really enjoy working with them. There is not a dull day.
"Cassville is a great school," said Allder. "The community is so supportive of the district and the teachers. Catherine is a great principal, and my peers have been so encouraging too.
"I love my job so much, and I am so honored to be selected as the Young Educator of the Year," said Allder. "My goal now is to be the kind of teacher who can be honored as Teacher of the Year."
Allder lives in Garfield, Ark., with her husband, Scott, and children, Colton, 15, Emily, 13, and Shane, 10.