November 2013

 

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Zebra Staff Note:
The Teacher Feature highlights the positive impact or innovative work of a South Dakota teacher each month. If you have a suggestion for a Teacher Feature, contact Ruth Raveling at (605) 773-2593 or Ruth.Raveling@state.sd.us.

Gilder Lehrman winner shines in second career

Teaching is technically Denise Allen’s second career, but this year’s state Gilder Lehrman winner felt called to teaching as soon as she graduated high school.

Allen teaches first grade at Langford Elementary, and was selected for the award given to history teachers in part because of her fun and unique study of various presidents and other historical figures.

“We have a lot of fun with it, especially around the holidays dedicated to those individuals,” Allen said. “So much of social studies at this age is really learning how to get along with people. I have a small group of kids which is nice because we get to develop a lot of different concepts a little more deeply.”

Allen also strives to make her lessons interdisciplinary. That way, she’s teaching social studies, as well as other subjects throughout the day, and the students see how all learning is connected. This year, the students measured a high school basketball player and compared his height to Abraham Lincoln’s height. They also built Lincoln Log houses.

Allen is in her fifth year of teaching. After high school, she earned her two-year degree in travel industry management. She worked in customer service at United Airlines for a while and then in 2004, started taking night classes. She finished her degree at Northern State University, and fulfilled her dream of teaching.

She feels it has been a rewarding and worthwhile journey.

“In first grade, everything is exciting and new,” Allen said. “I love seeing the spark in my students’ eyes, and knowing that it’s because of something you told them that ignited their interests. It’s something they learned from you.”