Monday, October 15, 2007

Haley Alvarado

Visitors often ask how we develop "fresh out of college" teachers at Chets Creek. Our new Teacher of the Year is an excellent example of a teacher who has spent her entire career with us.

Miss Haley Skinner began her teaching career at Chets Creek, fresh from the University of Florida. I spent some time in Haley's classroom that first year because she had two little ones that were challenged from the first day of school. As the Literacy Coach and Special Education teacher, the principal asked me to try to help. It was obvious from that first year that this was a teacher with heart, with the "gift" for teaching who would leave no stone unturned in her advocacy for the children in her care.

Haley Skinner soon became Mrs. Alvarado. We were all at her wedding, done is typical Haley style. What I remember most is watching her walk down the aisle in such a beautiful dress with her white tennis shoes! During the next several years, Haley shared an office with Maria Mallon, our own Meme. Maria came to Chets Creek with several years of inner city teaching under her belt. Maria is sunshine wherever she goes, is a Master Teacher, and is the heart of the Kindergarten Team. There is no doubt that Haley was mentored and influenced by Maria. They shared their ideas, their questions, their hopes and dreams and became lifelong friends. After only a few years Haley became a National Board certified teacher... and a mom. It seemed that she accomplished both with little effort in her same "in charge", organized style. She continued to ask questions. She was often opinionated and outspoken, but she just HAD to know how to do the best that she could for every student in her care. She was determined. She was passionate. She was emerging as a leader.

A couple of years ago Meredy Mackiewicz, a college student, was assigned as a one-on-one assistant to an autistic child in Haley's class. Haley has always been willing to take on challenging students. (This year she has a room full of second language learners.) She and Meredy became fast friends. After Meredy graduated and had a year of teaching on her own, they decided to join forces and became the "Mackarados." I spent two years in their classroom every day as their Special Education Inclusion teacher. You learn a lot about people when you see them "up close and personal," and I can certainly say that Haley and Meredy are the real thing - they are amazing! You never go into their classroom that things are not humming. They finish each other's sentences. Their lessons are thoughtful and real. They are teaching 100% of the time. They let their heart and mind, their intuition and experience, lead them. They have conversations with their children - real conversations. Their classroom is a learning village where people take care of each other. Their students are learning so much more than readin', ritin' and 'rithmetic. The Mackarados have also consistently had some of the highest assessment scores at the end of the year.

Haley has always been a "looper". She begins a class in Kindergarten and takes them to first grade. Along the way she develops deep and lasting friendships with many of the families. She is often seen at soccer, tee-ball games and dance recitals. She and Meredy actually make signs to hold up and can be quite an obnoxious cheering section! The families love it! Parents confide in her, but she intuitively knows where to draw the line as a professional. This past summer Haley became an Adjunct Professor at the University of North Florida. How fortunate are her students! Haley is the consummate professional always embracing the newest technology or learning strategy. She is a powerful mentor for new teachers to Chets. She is giving back all that has been given to her. When her mentee had difficulty completing DRAs this year, Haley was there to help. When her peers had difficulty completing all their pre-assessment data, Meredy held down their class while Haley went and subbed so other kindergarten teachers could finish. Haley is a problem solver and is always willing to be the voice for the underdog. This year she has led a movement to incorporate more social projects into the lives of our kindergartners - a movement that I think is catching school-wide. She believes that we have a responsibility to the whole child - a message that resonates with her peers. You will see Kindergartners setting up "Alex's Lemonade Stands" at every parent event to raise money for childhood cancer this year. She is the spark plug for getting Chets Creek to recycle. Each kindergarten class will adopt a family for Thanksgiving and the list goes on...

I am so proud to have learned beside Haley these past years. We are so proud to have her represent our school, our Kindergarten, as the 2007 Chets Creek Teacher of the Year. She is a model to so many of our young teachers of what they too can become. She is an example of how we mentor beginning teachers the Chets Creek-way. But Haley is young in her career. She is only beginning the journey. Remember her name... because I believe the best is yet to come...

1 comment:

Suzanne Shall said...

Thank you for highlighting Haley's journey. Too often in a school this large, it is impossible to develop an "upclose and personal" relationship with every teacher. I enjoyed reading your entry and got to know a few more things about this extraordinary teacher. BRAVO to Haley!