- Alma School District
Allee Staggs- On the Job Training
Full Name: Alice Kelly Staggs but I go by Allee
Family: Mom (Kelly); Dad (Bill); Sister (SarahBeth, she's in 9th grade at Fayetteville High School); Son: Jaydyn, he's 3
High School: Springdale High School
College: Started at UofA in Fayetteville then after two years I transferred to UAFS where I finished
Favorite TV Show: Grey's Anatomy / Criminal Minds
Favorite Music: Rap and Country
Favorite Food: Anything from Chick Fil A
Favorite Season: Fall
Best Advice: (from dad, former teacher.. etc.): "Leave school at school." It is very hard to not work all night, especially as a first-year teacher and having all the remote kids. It is also very hard to not worry about my kids when I leave here. Every weekend you just worry about if they'll make good choices so that you'll get to see them again on Monday. It's tough but it can be exhausting and consuming if you allow it to be.
On the job training
By Kevin Taylor
Imagine becoming a first-year teacher during COVID-19 — face masks, Zoom, remote learning, quarantine.
These are issues facing first-year Alma algebra teacher Allee Staggs.
“I’ve been told if you can make it through this year, it’ll be a breeze after that,” she jokes.
Staggs knew from a young age she wanted to be a teacher. But "a handful of high school teachers" tried their best to talk her out of it.
The first-year Alma math teacher took engineering courses as a University of Arkansas freshman. In a world before COVID-19, where hanging out with friends was as normal in 2016 as it was 20 and 30 years before, Staggs learned a hard lesson.
College requires plenty of self-discipline.
"In high school, I really didn't have to try that hard; it was decently easy for me," Staggs said. "But then I got to college and you have to study and be disciplined, and as a freshman and living on my own, I struggled."
Heeding the advice of her Springdale High School teachers, Staggs sought to become an engineering major. Sounds easy enough.
"My high school teachers told me to try something first and then see if that's something you want to do," she said. "I actually changed my major six times in college."
Staggs, who just recently turned 24, transferred to UAFS, leaving the bright lights and University of Arkansas bubble for a similar, less-stressful life in Fort Smith.
"When I switched to UAFS, the only thing it looked like I wanted to do was education," Staggs said. "I actually started as an English education major, but I'm not very passionate about reading, and there was a lot of reading, so I decided to give math a shot."
Staggs did her student teaching at Fort Smith Southside last year before finding out about an opening in Alma.
Growing up in Northwest Arkansas, Staggs said she didn’t know what to expect her first year.
"I honestly can say I did not know what I was walking into with Alma," she said. "The majority of my kids (students), even if they have one parent or both, they're not necessarily there. I have some kids that live with their grandma and some that don't really have any family."
It's hard, Staggs said, not to want to jump into their lives and help with parental guidance.
"It hurts your heart," she said. "It makes me want to be more lenient, especially with ninth graders, (but) they need that (discipline) at school. It's hard for me to take on this parental role, because I'm so young.
"It's hard for them to see me like that."
Alma principal Brian Kirkendoll became aware of Staggs at a meet-and-greet last year at UAFS.
“For teachers getting ready to graduate, I had a chance to meet them through a meet-and-greet. I met her and Mrs. (Rene) Taylor there,” Kirkendoll said. “I knew if I had a math opening, I would call her, and sure enough we had one.”
Staggs actually met her fellow math teachers through Zoom before the school had their first PD (professional development) day last June.
Two months into what many expected to be a tumultuous academic year, Staggs has used her instincts while dealing with ninth-graders and has heeded the advice of established teachers.
“Being in different practicums with my internship, I got to see different PLCs,” Staggs said. “(But) I think this group vibes the best and works well together. There’s no one person I feel like I need to go to; I go to all of them — whose door is open is who I walk into and ask questions, whether it’s looking for something or just going into to vent.
“The environment here is really great.”
Perhaps the biggest first-year challenge is teaching remote students, some of whom she’s yet to meet one-on-one.
"I think they're having a hard time switching from what remote was last year and what it is this year," Staggs said. "I'm expecting them to learn the content. You can tell a lot of them aren't watching my videos. They have to know they can't photomap their way through the class."
As the first semester has evolved, Staggs has also learned on the fly how to deal with students being quarantined — those who are out for just 10 days before returning to school.
"They're not used to being remote,” Staggs said. “They think you can just be quarantined for two weeks and not do anything for me and then show up and ask, 'OK, what did I miss?'
"It's hard keeping up with who is quarantined and who is not."
It’s been especially hard for Staggs’ Algebra I ninth-graders.
"My freshmen need me to be on them about getting it done and paying attention to what I'm doing,” she said. "My juniors, I can get up there and interact a little more and they can still get it done."
Kirkendoll praised Staggs’ ability to adapt during such difficult times.
“Not having anything to compare it to, most of them (first-year teachers) were really fired up about the opportunity,” Kirkendoll said. “I feel like they have been more understanding and flexible than some of our veteran teachers. She’s been a great contributor to the team.”