Educator of the Month: Alison Calhoun

EoM-Aug-16If you’re looking for evidence of teachers who care, you could do worse than observe Alison Calhoun on the last day of school at West Jessamine Middle.

She will be the one with tears in her eyes as she hugs her students goodbye.

“Every year, I realize how much I’m going to miss my kids,” said Calhoun, a sixth-grade reading teacher.

The weeping ritual is now in its 18th year for Calhoun, who always knew she wanted to teach – or at least since the second grade in Danville.

“Mrs. Johnson was my teacher and she was incredible,” Calhoun said. “I remember going home and telling my mother that I want to be just like Mrs. Johnson.”

And that’s how Calhoun started her career – as an elementary teacher in Frankfort and Lexington.

Apprehensive when first asked to teach middle school, she jumped in with both feet after she started at West Jessamine 14 years ago.

Along with dedication and compassion, colleagues list creativity among Calhoun’s compelling attributes.

In fact, she works hands-on activities into the reading curriculum. The novel “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen is a compelling survival adventure of a boy in the wilderness.

Along with reading the text and writing book reports, students use Q-tips, popsicle sticks and string to construct toy-like shelters and rafts.

They build bows and arrows to shoot at toy animals.

These activities are particularly effective with students who struggle with reading.

“These students are usually my stars when it comes to hands-on activities, and it gives all students a connection with what we’re reading,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. She was the school Teacher of the Year in 2015, won the District’s Excellence in Education award this year and is one of only six teachers on the district’s Next Generation Leadership project.

“She has amazing rapport with her students,” said Margie Maloney, the school’s retiring Curriculum Resource Coordinator. “She’s always looking for new ways to teach, and she makes reading come alive for students.”

That’s Calhoun’s goal. “I want my students at the end of the year to say that reading may not be their favorite subject but at least they find it enjoyable.”

She actually conducts a year-end survey to gauge student reaction.

The results? By and large, mission accomplished.

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