Scholar Spotlight: Allison Powers ’16

What is your hometown and graduation year?

Lansing, NC (Ashe County) ’16

What is your major?

Special Education, Adapted Curriculum

Why did you choose Appalachian?

Appalachian is known for its education program. I don’t know of many other colleges that continued their own version of Teaching Fellows after the state cut it out of the budget. Once I figured out I wanted to be a teacher I knew App would be my number one choice!

What do you like or love about this place?

One of the things I have found to be really special about App is the way the professors at the COE remember your name. They all truly care about how you are doing, not just in school, but in general. They don’t just tell you how to be a good teacher- they show you. I also feel like I’m surrounded by students who are just as exciting about becoming a teacher as me, which creates a very supportive environment.

How did you become a James scholar?

The summer before my freshman year I applied to a new program called Yosef Education Scholars. This program was App’s way of continuing the wonderful opportunities associated with Teaching Fellows without financial support from the state. This program is now called the Appalachian Community of Education Scholars (ACES).I was just hoping I could get in and live with this great group of future teachers. I was both excited and nervous when I found out I would move on to get an interview. One day our director Jan Stanley called me and told me that I had been accepted into the program, and I had been awarded the James Scholarship!

What surprised you about being a student here?

I was surprised at how quickly going to college classes felt normal. I thought it would feel really weird to have my classes spread out instead of going to the same classes from eight to three every day. It was intimidating at first, but I learned to love it.

What are your plans after graduation?

Part of the James Scholarship involves teaching four years in a North Carolina school within seven years after I graduate. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find a job and start teaching right away! I’d like to work in a middle school and maybe even coach or help coach a softball team.

Being a James Scholar has allowed me to be a part of a wonderful group of future teachers. It’s also allowed me to meet two amazing people, Steve and Judy James. They make you feel like a part of their family and have provided me with opportunities that I know I wouldn’t have had without them!

Personal Story written by Allison Powers

I lived in Ashe County my whole life. My dad works for the State Department doing maintenance on bridges and my mom stays at home with my sister. Neither of them went to college, so I guess you could say that statistics would assume that I wouldn’t either. As soon as I started school my parents pushed me to do well and to work hard. They always wanted me to have a good job so that I wouldn’t have to struggle financially. I doubt I would’ve put as much work into school if they hadn’t encouraged me to do so and explained why all throughout my educational career.

I wasn’t one of those people who knew what I wanted to be a teacher since I was in the second grade. There were a few times when I thought that maybe that was something I would like to do, but I always changed my mind. My junior year of high school I had a sort of crazy encounter that set me in the right direction. It started in the Chic- fil-a in Boone. My mom and I were sitting at a table close to the play area talking while my sister was playing. We saw a little girl walk in dressed entirely in pink. As she walked closer we noticed that she had balk places all over her head. My heart immediately broke for this little girl. I didn’t know her story at the time, but I knew no child deserved to go through something like that. Her parents sat down in the booth next to ours and she ran to the play area. Before long I noticed the little girl and my sister playing together and waving at us. We started talking to her parents and they told us her story. They had adopted her when she was two years old. I don’t remember them saying anything about her dad, so I got the impression he wasn’t in the picture. Her mom was a drug addict, which caused the little girl to have lots of health problems. They said that when they adopted her she referred to herself as “it” for a long time. She had different needs as far as academics go, but she also was having treatments for organ failure. I was completely blown away by everything they were telling me.

She walked out to get a drink and I told her that she was absolutely beautiful. She just smiled; she didn’t talk very much. Her parents told me that it was her birthday and she was turning nine years old. This is the part that was totally out of character for me at the time (I’m a little more outgoing now than I was in high school)- she sat on my lap and I sang “Happy Birthday” to her in the middle of the dining room. I gave her the angel silly band I had on my wrist and told her that was my present to her because she was an angel. She looked up at her mom and said, “I want her to come to my party!” Her party was going to be at her house that weekend. Her parents gave us directions and we actually went to their house, even though we hardly knew them! I got her a few little presents but the only one I remember is a best friend necklace. It was one of those that had two pieces that formed a heart. I gave her one and told her the other one was for me to keep. I still have my half of the necklace hanging around my rear view mirror. Her mom asked me if I knew what I wanted to do and I said no not really. She told me I should definitely think about working with kids with special needs.

The next semester at my high school I took an internship as one of my classes. It was with a self-contained exceptional children’s class at my old middle school. I took the class with the intention of observing the occupational therapist and seeing how she worked with the kids, but I absolutely fell in love with the students. Before long I started calling them “my kids.” And that was all it took. I spent about an hour and a half with my kids every day for that semester and I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. A lot of people who had internships other places complained about how they did the same thing every day and they never had anything new to write in their journals. My experience was the total opposite! There was never a dull moment with my kids. Sometimes there were bad days, but those days challenged me instead of discouraging me. When I had an experience with a kid and just couldn’t figure out how to handle it while I was there, instead of going home thinking “maybe I don’t want to do this,” I would go home and wrack my brain for different things to try the next time something similar happened. I can honestly say that I’ve never doubted my decision to become a special education teacher.

In my foundations class we talked about how people are called to do things, and I truly believe in my heart that this is my calling. Since working with my kids I’ve felt like this was part of God’s plan for my life, but it’s always nice when he gives me those little moments of, “Yes Allison, you’re still in the right place.” The two of the scholarships I received were specific to teaching, and the other was a renewable one that really helped financially. My first year of college was completely covered with scholarships which was a huge blessing. I think the best reminder of why I am here was when I got to see the little girl again last year at Special Olympics. It was amazing to see where she had come and where I had come and realize that if our paths hadn’t crossed I might not even be here. Too look back at the steps and the people that have helped me pursue my passion is very humbling. I know there will be very trying times, but I honestly believe that my vocation will bring the most precious opportunities into my life that I could ever be awarded.