| Jun 28, 2007

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Feature Article - June 28, 2007

Mrs. Allison wins McLeod Award

by JeffGreen

There aren’t many people in the modern world who find their life’s calling at an early age and can pursue it for their entire career.

That’s exactly what Colleen Allison was able to do. She is retiring this week after 33 years teaching mathematics at Sharbot Lake High School, and as part of her send-off, the Limestone District School Board has awarded her with the J.C. MacLeod teaching award, which is known informally around the board as the teacher of the year award.


The day she learned about the award capped off what Colleen Allison described later as “an amazing week.” It started with a retirement dinner in her honour, and the next day she received a plate from her students that was signed by each of them and said, “We love you, Mrs. Allison” in the centre.

The following day at the school’s recognition assembly she was informed about the MacLeod award. “I couldn’t believe it, I still can’t,” she said.

Colleen Allison was born and raised on a farm near Landsdowne, attended High School in Gananoque and the went to Queens for five years, doing an Honours (Science) degree majoring in Mathematics and a one year teaching course. She taught for 6 months in Carleton Place and came to Sharbot Lake High School in January of 1974 to teach mathematics.

“I felt at home in Sharbot Lake right away, coming as I did from a small community myself. We moved here, raised our family here, and I never thought of teaching anywhere else.”

Colleen’s two children went to school in Sharbot Lake, and both have gone on to university.

Her reputation as a teacher hasn’t changed much during her entire career. “I have always expected my students to apply themselves, whether they were in the academic or the applied stream has never really mattered, but I have always expected them to concentrate on their work in my classes. And they have responded.”

Her expectations for her students have always been matched by a commitment to provide them with what they have needed to succeed. “You can see it in their eyes when they don’t get it, and I’ve always encouraged students to ask for help.”

And the students responded. On a typical lunch hour at Sharbot Lake, several students of different ages would be sitting at desks in Mrs. Allison’s room, eating their lunch and working on math problems.

“I spend a few minutes with one student, and few with another, and go through lunch like that.”

When asked if students have changed over the years, Colleen had no real answer, but she said one of the things she liked about teaching in a small school was the fact that she could walk down the hall and “realise that I know about 80% of the kids.”

Last year, when she suffered from a broken arm, this familiarity made quite a difference.

“I couldn’t open doors, I couldn’t carry books, I couldn’t do a lot of things, but the students were always there to help out. It was very natural. I don’t know it if would have been like that in a larger school.”

Although Mrs. Allison has always had a reputation as a no-nonsense, tough, but caring teacher, there has always been a lighter side as well, and her operatic delivery of the line “Five math exams” during a rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas during this year’s Christmas celebration will likely be remembered for several years.

Colleen Allison is leaving the school, but remains a valued member of the community.

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