My name is Jenna Allen and I am currently a 2nd grade teacher at Liberty Common Elementary School—a public charter school in Fort Collins, Colorado. This is my 11th year on staff at Liberty.
Before I chose Liberty as a professional educator, I chose Liberty as the school for my two children, Madyson and Aidan. I was privileged to educate my children within the public education system and hand them their diplomas as they graduated from Liberty. I am proud of their pursuits in higher education today. Being both a parent and educator has provided a unique opportunity for me to comment on the whole scope of education our school provides. I could share thousands of wonderful snippets of our time as a Liberty family, but I am going to restrain my thoughts to the elementary level at Liberty and share what makes the school so special.
Picture in your mind the backside of a beautifully woven tapestry—all the strings, knots, and loose-ends constitute nothing you would call beautiful, but what I will call “all our messy glory," as refernced in Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles. Keep this image in your mind as I share four main areas that I want to highlight. These four areas are certainly not exhaustive reasons of why I love teaching at Liberty's elementary school, but they are at the core. They are character, curriculum, colleagues, and community.
I love getting to teach and model—and hopefully inspire students to grow in—character. It is one of the key reasons I choose Liberty for my own children. I love the school's “Foundation Stones” of virtue and getting to talk about them—pointing out good character in the stories we read, in the lives of people throughout history, and even in my own life.
It is my firm belief that without providing a solid foundation in character, the knowledge we impart to these young students remains merely information. But, if our aim is “true wisdom,” at the end of their academic journey, that wisdom must begin with daily discussions on the development of these traits and how they connect with what we are learning. I also love that we don’t simply discuss character but are given the charge to hold students accountable to increasingly reflect these character traits in their daily lives. These same often remind us that we are all learning. This focus at the elementary school is so dear to me. It is critical to the formation of these precious lives and it makes up the sturdy threads that hold the rest of the tapestry together.
The curriculum is also foundational to our tapestry. It is the plan, the driving force, the blueprint—and it is masterful. I love what our students get to learn. The curriculum is rich and demanding, and it requires students to wrestle with difficult content and concepts in order to make connections with what they are learning in other areas like art and music as well as with what they have learned in prior years. I am always amazed at the connections students make in my classroom and the emotional reactions they have the injustices we face as a society when we discuss topics such as slavery or Rosa Parks. As this spark of empathy and sense of fairness begins to connect with past discussions of character and virtue, the tapestry begins to take form.
In the lower elementary, all we see is the “messy glory” of the backside of the tapestry. The strands are not yet tightened and set in place. The picture is not fully formed, and yet it is a process made available to every student through our robust curriculum. The curriculum, however, needs a voice, a herald, a champion, and that brings me to the third area of the tapestry.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to celebrate my amazing colleagues, as they are certainly a reason that I love teaching at Liberty. The dedication, drive, and demand they put on themselves is admirable. Each and every person I am privileged to work with is driven to deliver the best education for each student in their classroom.
I think of the 6th grade team reworking time in each day to help each student succeed—they are dedicated to making the most of every moment for the benefit of their students. I think also of our amazing kindergarten teachers who are so gifted at helping their new charges learn how to “do” school while teaching rigorous content, all the while encouraging parents along the way. We all are striving for the best and it is inspiring and challenging. I am humbled to be a part of an organization with this level of integrity to the mission of educating students to become learners and leaders.
While all of this is being woven together at school, we are fully aware that there are strands of this tapestry that can only be woven by parents at home. I am so grateful for our school’s founders, a dedicated group of parents who invested so much to launch Liberty 21 years ago. That investment has provided priceless opportunities for thousands of students.
The rich tradition of parent involvement has been and continues to be one of the things I love most about Liberty. I loved being involved as a parent as it was a privilege to walk alongside my kids’ teachers and be able to easily be involved in my kids learning and better assist them at home. As a teacher, I am so grateful for all the ways parents contribute to what we do every day—from the dad who comes to my classroom to sharpen pencils to the parents who spend countless hours at home helping and engaging in what their children are learning. I love that our community aspires to not just “get into Liberty,” but to live Liberty’s values each and every day.
Jenna Allen is a 2nd grade teacher at Liberty Common Elementary School.