Alumni: Where are they now? Elissa Mallory – Local Preschool Teacher

Photo+courtesy+of+Elissa+Mallory.

Photo courtesy of Elissa Mallory.

Photo courtesy of Elissa Mallory.
Photo courtesy of Elissa Mallory.

The Mac Weekly caught up with Elissa Mallory ’07, an anthropology major from a small town in northeast Texas. Mallory currently teaches five-year-olds at Children’s Country Day School, a private, nature-based preschool in Mendota Heights. She makes a mean homemade salsa, she’s churned butter wearing Pioneer-era dresses and now she’s speaking to us about her life after Mac.

TMW: Can you tell me about your path from Mac to now?

EM: I came out of Macalester with a much broader worldview and a lot of skills that I could put towards a variety of jobs, but really no direction as to what I wanted to do. So I decided to do AmeriCorps, and I moved to Austin, Texas. I never thought I would go into education, but I knew I enjoyed learning new things, and that’s what this particular AmeriCorps program seemed to do, and I’d get to be outside a lot. Through AmeriCorps, I discovered that I really do enjoy teaching. Teaching is a way for me to be a lifelong learner and to pursue the things that I’m interested in and excited about, and then I learn them better when I’m passing the information along to someone else.

I knew some kind of service in education or social work was what I wanted to do after working in that program. So I applied to lots of programs and then finally decided a Master’s in Natural Science and Environmental Education at Hamline. I knew I enjoyed science and outdoor education, and that was a way I could get a credential to move forward in that career path. A position opened up at Country Day, and so I’m here. And it’s pretty great.

What’s the best or most unexpected part of working at Country Day?

Being outside and just allowing kids free-play. I knew I liked being with kids and imparting information that I was excited about, but I didn’t know how much fun it would be to just watch them explore the natural world.

When have you felt most satisfied in your life?

I feel like there’s small moments every day. If you take the day as a whole, sometimes it can feel overwhelmingly negative, but there are those small moments—especially with little kids—when those sort of “eureka” moments happen, when somebody really makes a connection and you can see that you’ve started this little fire in someone else, it feels really good.

What do you most want to do in the future that you haven’t done yet?

I think I would like to do more teaching of other adults, so educator-training and workshopping with other educators. And more curriculum development. If I’m thinking big, I’d love to own a school or do a nonprofit to expose more kids to the freedom of being outdoors with your friends.

What values did you learn from Mac?

Mac exposed me to a wider range of people than I had ever been exposed to before, and really challenged my worldview of what I thought most people were like. I came to Mac, and I encountered people who believed a lot more of the same things as I did, but whom I felt were just as close-minded as where I came from. I learned to find people on a spectrum, to find that I can agree with you and argue with you at the same time, and to open my eyes to more perspectives.

If you could go back and talk to your college self, what advice would you give?

Keep reminding yourself that you don’t know much about what’s going on in the world or in the room or with anybody who’s sitting around you. I think I came to Macalester thinking that I knew a whole lot more than I did and I left Macalester being a little bit more humble in that respect, but I think living life out in the real world and just encountering an even broader range of people reminds me everyday that everyone lives a life that you don’t know about.

Any advice to students entering life after Mac?

Don’t be afraid of not having a direction. Because I think a lot of us didn’t, those of us who were like, “I don’t really know what I’m going to do with this degree or what I even want to do in the long run.” Don’t rush into graduate school or rush into a job that you’re going to feel tied down to, because I think you have more room and growing to do before making a decision about what you want to do for the rest of your life. If you had asked me at any point in my four years of Macalester, “Will you ever be a preschool teacher that plays with llamas and has a turtle named Fuzzball in their class?” I would have said no, because I would have thought that I wouldn’t be happy doing it, but I would’ve been wrong. It’s not necessarily what I want to do forever, but I think it’s a good stepping stone on the way to figuring out what I want to do next, and I still don’t have the answer to that. So have experiences! You’ve got a long time to decide.