Despite any first day jitters, Marcey Allen knew with absolute certainty that education was how she would make her mark on the world. As a first-year first grade teacher, Allen only had a prior year as a music teacher under her belt when she began her new job at Etowah City School (ECS). None of that mattered because as her new students began to fill her classroom, any anxiety she felt gave way to unreserved enthusiasm about making a difference in a child’s life.
“I have wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl,” Allen said. “When I was young, my older brother struggled with reading. Even though he was older, I always wanted to help him learn how to read. That really got me in to wanting to help other people succeed in life and learn what they need to learn.”
Given her lifelong desire to become an educator, it was important to Allen that she be the best teacher possible for her students. She points to the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) for helping her achieve that goal.
When Allen began teaching at ECS, the school was in its second year of implementing NIET’s best teaching practices. NIET’s research-based approach to teaching helps increase teacher capacity and drive effective instructional practices through focused professional development and data-driven coaching in each classroom. This support is provided by teacher leaders working with school administrators, enabling the school to build expertise within its own faculty.
Allen has seen these practices directly influence her teaching, saying, “I think that because [we use NIET’s best practices], I’m a better teacher.” That first year, Allen needed some help with the structure of her classroom lessons. She was able to work through the NIET rubric with the help of a mentor teacher to strengthen and refine her lesson style and structure – all leading to better learning for her students.
“One of the greatest elements that NIET brought to our school is a culture of support,” Allen said. “If I have any questions or any problems, I can go to any of the mentor or master teachers and they were so welcoming. They really wanted me to succeed.”
That support came into play when some of Allen’s students were struggling with reading comprehension. Allen knew she could turn to any of her fellow teachers for guidance. Using the resources available to her, she implemented a close-reading strategy with her students.
The results of her efforts led to students who were not only able to read fluently, but fully comprehending the material. That was a full-circle moment for Allen – she helped her students with their reading skills just as she longed to help her brother with reading when she was young.
Now in her third year at ECS, Allen says the approach her school takes brings just as much value to its teachers as it does its students, and that the students at ECS don’t just have one classroom teacher providing instruction, but an entire teaching staff working on their behalf.
“We’re not just a school,” Allen added. “We’re a family.”