About the Prize Winners: Kelly McAllester

Meet Kelly McAllester

Kelly McAllester won the Kohelet Prize for Real-World Learning, as part of a team of six at The Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital. Check out their winning entry, Election Project 2016: Kids’ Voices Count, here:

In your experience, what is the greatest challenge facing students/teachers today?

One of the greatest challenges is for teachers to plan curriculum that pushes students to think outside of their comfort zones.

In implementing your winning project in the classroom, was there a moment when you knew that you had hit upon something really powerful?  If so, describe that moment.

We took a trip to another school to share what we had learned and to participate in a “chalk talk” together on some big questions. When my students heard the other students’ ideas they started to realize that the questions we were asking mattered to people outside of our classroom. In that moment I knew we were doing something powerful.

What advice would you give teachers who want to attempt something new and different in their own classrooms?

Don’t be afraid of the revising your plans part way through a unit or after a lesson that didn’t go the way you thought it would. The trajectory of the project in my classroom completely changed based on a news article about mining cobalt for smartphones that I didn’t read until we were already in the midst of our study of globalization.

What’s your favorite part of your teaching day and why?

My favorite part of the day is when a movement or example I am using to help my students learn a new concept really clicks with my students. There is nothing better than a room of fourth graders going “mmmm juicy” when I read an open-ended “juicy” question about literature.

How do you ensure that you’re always growing professionally?

I talk to other teachers about what they are doing in their classrooms and share what I am doing in my classroom. I am also always thinking about how to change a plan or assignment to make it work even better.

If you had one piece of advice to share with a new teacher walking into his/her classroom for the first time…

Get to know your students. The connections you build at the beginning of the year help you develop strong relationships with your students so that you can help them learn and grow through challenges and successes in the rest of the year.

When I’m not in the classroom I love to:

When I’m not in the classroom I love to bake. This strengthens my teaching because having my own hobbies and interests helps me connect with my students.