will miss fifth-grade perspective
...CHARLESTON -- Jefferson Elementary School teacher Allyn Montgomery says there a lot of things he will be sad to leave behind when he retires at the end of the school year, including the smiling faces of students in the hallways, conversations with students in his fifth-grade class -- even kissing grandmas!
Montgomery recalls one year early on in his
teaching career when he
was coaching a losing fifth- and sixth-grade basketball team in Rardin.After a 20-game losing streak, the team finally won the last game of the season, prompting a crowd of proud grandmothers to flood from the bleachers and shower Montgomery
"When grandmas give you kisses after a victorious basketball game, you know you are doing something right," he
laughed."That was a lot of fun."Montgomery, who held teaching positions in Rardin, Lerna and Ashmore during the duration of his career, has spent the majority of his 33 years as an educator at Jefferson Elementary School.
"I have enjoyed my time at Jefferson, but it was a great advantage to get the opportunity to work in so many of the outlying schools in this area," Montgomery
said."Today, when I have students in my classes from those communities, I know where they are coming from."
Teaching in the smaller schools also provided Montgomery
with valuable experience early in his
career."I wouldn't trade those opportunities for anything," he
said."The class sizes were much smaller back then so the schools were more like families."
has taught in fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade classes, teaching fifth-graders seems to be a perfect fit for Montgomery."During fifth grade, students learn about American history and geography, two subjects I have always enjoyed," he
During the last 10 years since Jefferson began its team teaching program, Montgomery
has taught only reading and social studies, which has enabled him to incorporate many of his
own personal experiences into the classroom.
"Because I teach social studies, I have been able to use a lot of personal slides and videos from my travels throughout the country," he
said, adding that he
has been fortunate to travel to 49 of the 50 states during the last several years.Montgomery
also appreciates the fresh perspective and sense of maturity brought to the table by most of his
"They are at an age where you can speak to them on more of an adult level," he
said."You can reason with them and don't have to treat them like children any longer -- it is a really nice age."In addition to teaching fifth graders at Jefferson for the last three decades, Montgomery has also worked with 11- and 12-year-olds during summers at a youth ranch in Colorado for the last several years.
"It seems like kids in that age group are just at the ideal age to take trips," Montgomery
said."By junior high, they often seem to have seen it all, but fifth and sixth graders always seem to enjoy new surroundings -- it can be really exciting to show them new places for the first time."Montgomery
, who met wife Cyndy several years ago when both were volunteering at the Colorado youth ranch, said he
gets a sense of satisfaction from providing students with experiences they will remember for the rest of their lives.
During summers at the ranch, Montgomery
said it would often be fun to show students how to see the man in the moon.
"It is great to be a part of that magic moment when they see something like that for the first time," he
said."After they see it once, they will always be able to see it."Montgomery earned a bachelor's degree from Eastern Illinois University, where he says he was fortunate to be a student in one of Robert Zabka's education classes.
was a real inspiration to me," Montgomery
always went that extra step and I have tried to do that in my teaching as well -- to try to do whatever I can to make life a little better for the kids in my classroom."
will no longer be teaching, Montgomery doesn't plan to sit still for long."I have spent so many years inside, I am really ready to get outside and travel," he
wife, who retired from her
position as Head Start director in Effingham last January, already have several trips planned for this summer.
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