Hey! Welcome to WeAreTeachers’ newest series, In My Classroom, where we believe in teacher appreciation all year long. Today we’re chatting with Ms. Allyssa Allaire, a high school English teacher from Nebraska. Let’s step inside her classroom and see what it’s like.

As the sponsor of her Lincoln Southeast’s Harry Potter Club, Ms. Allyssa Allaire is likely to appreciate being introduced with a quote from Albus Dumbledore: “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

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Words may be magical, but for some they can also be an elusive obstacle. That’s how Allyssa Allaire found words as a high school student with both dyslexia and dysgraphia. All classes were made difficult by these learning disabilities, none more so than English. So, naturally, upon graduating from high school, Allyssa dedicated herself to becoming an English teacher. Rather than shying away from the words she found so difficult, she pursued them.

Of course, one doesn’t just become an English teacher overnight. It started with a conversation with her own high school English teacher. “He told me—and I’ll never forget this—I should choose a career path in something that I struggled in but enjoyed.” For a girl with dyslexia who nevertheless loved reading, that thing was English. She knew that others like her—future students—could love it, too, if they had the right teacher to give them a push. She decided to become that teacher.

But as if the letters jumbling themselves into unrecognizable sequences wasn’t enough, Allyssa had additional hurdles to clear to become a teacher. The oldest of six, her single mother wasn’t in a position to cut tuition checks to the university. So for two years, Allyssa endured the two-hour bus ride to and from the local community college, earning her associate’s degree. When she wasn’t in class or studying, she worked at a grocery store. Eventually, between her wages, grants, and scholarships, she was able to put in two more years at university and graduate with her degree in English education.

Allyssa Allaire is a teacher who inspires us. Recently, we interviewed her about her current experiences as a teacher. Here’s what she said:

What’s your favorite part of teaching?

My favorite part of teaching is building the rapport between myself and my students. As someone who has two learning exceptionalities and struggled in my own personal education as a scholar, I find it rewarding to motivate my students in ascertaining and confirming their inner strengths and abilities and discovering what truly inspires them through the reading and writing process. 

Allyssa Allaire with her therapy dog, Zeke

Allyssa with her therapy dog and classroom helper, Zeke

If you could change anything about teaching, what would it be?

I’ve observed that the rhetoric behind many buildings is trying to find a method that “fits all students,” but in reality it needs to be differentiated for students’ needs in the classroom and in the curriculum. This can simply be done by intentionally working to foster teacher agency in their own content and classroom. I’ve seen a pattern of systemic pressures that work against teachers being empowered as both leaders and learners.

What do you wish people knew about you and/or your students?

I enjoy bringing new and unique teaching methods into the classroom to engage students with the curriculum. Some methods include book tastings, poetry cafes, station and suitcase activities, and Socratic discussions. I try to provide students with opportunities to think and respond by using these methods.

Photo of book tasting from Alyssa Allaire's classroom

What’s something unique about your classroom or your teaching?

I try to provide an inclusive classroom with meaningful decorations, posters, and interactive bulletin boards such as a reading workshop, book brochures, a growth mindset activity, and QR codes to access important information including the classroom syllabus, Google Classroom codes, and our district’s portal for students to access and participate in. I also provide flexible seating for students to enjoy and provide a more quality learning environment.

Interactive bulletin board from Allyssa Allaire's classroom

Interactive bulletin board with QR codes and recommended works by genre

Photo of living authors from Alyssa Allaire's classroom

Allyssa’s living authors wall

Tell us one of your favorite stories from the classroom.

On Tuesdays, my students participate in Tranquil Tuesday, which is personal reading. Before students begin reading their own novels, I always present a book trailer over a novel that is in my personal collection or available in the Media Center. This last week, students were fighting over the novel On the Come Up by Angie Thomas after watching the short trailer and reading the synopsis on the back of the book. It felt validating that students are willing to participate in reading.

I have started sending out my text connection emails through a letter. Attached on this letter is a link to my Classroom Amazon Wish List. I had a few students purchase books for our classroom and even new flexible seating for students to enjoy!

What are your three “can’t live without” teaching or classroom supplies?

Google Classroom has been a great tool to share online materials and text to engage in discussion with my students and them with their peers. Color-coded Flair pens! They are a great tool to help students see different types of feedback that I provide on their physical assignments. My therapy dog, Zeke! He helps students grow both academically and emotionally through his work.

We’re grateful to Allyssa for taking the time to talk to us. Fan mail, Flair pens, and treats for Zeke can be sent to:

Lincoln Southeast High School
c/o Ms. Allyssa Allaire
2930 S 37th St.
Lincoln, NE 68506

Do you know a great teacher to feature for In My Classroom? Let us know in the comments or email Mark at mark.gudgel@yahoo.com.

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Learn about educator Alyssa Allaire's impressive journey to become a teacher, including managing learning difficulties.