Kindergarten teacher awarded Austin Teacher of the Year
Minutes after the surprise of receiving the Teacher of the Year award Tuesday morning, Alisha Galle made it a teaching moment.
“These are happy tears,” the kindergarten teacher at Woodson Kindergarten Center explained to her students. “You get them when you’re really excited or proud of something.”
Other than that, Galle said she was speechless.
“I was very humbled to see all those people come out and wish me well,” she said. “I very shocked and surprised.”
The teacher, who is in her 13th year at Woodson, knew she was nominated but was surprised when she found out the school had gathered in the gym for the unveiling — originally posed as a practice for the upcoming holiday concert.
“It’s very humbling to know that people notice all the good things you do,” she said, still overcome with emotions hours later.
Teacher of the Year committee member Dave Brown said they received 27 nominations this year. While it’s hard to choose only one, he said they picked Galle because of her impact in students’ educational foundation.
“We talked about the ‘end of the rainbow’ for students — graduation,” Brown said. “We recognized that there can’t be an end without a beginning. For many students, that beginning is kindergarten. A great kindergarten teacher sets a foundation for life. Mrs. Galle is that!”
That idea of an exciting and crucial start to learning is something Galle works to bring into her classroom every day.
“For a lot of these kids, it’s their first experience, and I just want to make sure they find joy in being at school,” she said. “Teaching about math, reading and science is valuable, but I also want them to leave kindergarten being excited about school — to try and set them up for success and build those relationships with them.”
She hadn’t planned on teaching kindergarten in college, but she said she was hooked after her first student-teaching placement with the age group up in the Twin Cities.
“I think it all comes down to seeing how excited those kids get about learning,” Galle said. “No matter what kind of day you have, they always come back the next day and are so excited for whatever the day is going to bring.”
Since getting the position at Woodson, she said it all has worked out perfectly.
While she didn’t make an acceptance speech after the ceremony Tuesday morning, she teared up again when thinking about what she wanted to tell all of her fellow teachers:
“I feel like this award showcases the school as a whole and the wonderful things we have in this building,” Galle said. “That’s one of the reasons it hit me so hard is because of all the people there supporting you and helping you become a better teacher.”