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Head of the class

Teacher jumps at new opportunity to get back in the classroom

Created date

July 24th, 2012

Sylvia Allgaier can t seem to get enough of school. The twice-retired teacher is back in the classroom again, this time teaching parents. She works with the Richardson Independent School District s Family Literacy Program, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to parents with students in the district. It s a program she helped get off the ground 30 years ago. I started out teaching second and third grade in Richardson, says Sylvia. Then I applied to teach summer school in 1980. I was assigned an ESL class, and I really didn t know where to begin. There weren t many resources available, so I borrowed picture books from the speech therapist. Sylvia crafted a curriculum as she went along. The summer school session culminated in her students reenactment of the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. It was so much fun and very satisfying, she says. That fall, I started working full time with the ESL program.

New opportunities

By 1985, Sylvia was the director of ESL, pre-kindergarten, and bilingual education for the Richardson school district. In the ensuing years, she also served as the assistant principal at J. Frank Dobie Primary, the school where she now works. Sylvia retired for the first time in 1996. But it wasn t long before she jumped back into education, supervising student teachers through Region 10 s alternative certification program. Thirteen years later, in 2009, she turned in her red pen once more. That same year, she moved to Highland Springs, an Erickson Living community in North Dallas. One of the things that appealed to me about Highland Springs was its location, says Sylvia. It was right in my neighborhood, so I didn t have to give up my church or any of my activities. Sylvia spent the next two years immersing herself in volunteer work. She joined the resident advisory council and the chorus at Highland Springs. She offered to tutor two housekeepers on staff at the community who wanted to improve their English. But when Sylvia attended the retirement party of a former colleague in 2011, she learned of another opportunity to return to the classroom.

Back to work

There was an opening for an ESL teacher in the family literacy program, she says. The job was four hours a day, from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday. The more she considered it, the more she realized how much she enjoyed working. I like the structure that working affords, she says. It helps me stay organized. Teaching also forces me to think on my feet, keeps me alert, and sharpens my problem-solving skills. While she acknowledges that education has changed since she first stepped into a classroom there s a greater focus on keeping students engaged the delight she feels at her students progress remains unchanged. When I ask a question at the beginning of the school year, I typically don t get a response, says Sylvia. By January, my students will answer a question. By the end of the school year, not only can they answer a question, they can have a discussion if they disagree.

A teacher s life

Sylvia s year ebbs and flows with the school calendar. Summer vacation is just that a time for vacation. This year, Sylvia spent July traveling with a college friend to Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia. She also took a family vacation to Lake Tahoe with her two stepdaughters and their children. But when the school bell rings later this month, Sylvia will be back at the front of the classroom, face-to-face with 24 new students. I still get butterflies on the first day of school, she says. I don t think that will ever go away.