Teaching the Next Generation of Dodgers - from The Messenger
Madyson Alstott was a freshman at Fort Dodge Senior High when her sister Mackenzie Alstott was a senior.
That was eight years ago.
Now the sisters are educators in the same district they grew up in - the Fort Dodge Community School District.
The two said they are working hard to teach lessons and improve the social skills of the next generation of Fort Dodgers.
Madyson Alstott is in her first year as a third-grade teacher at Feelhaver Elementary School. Mackenzie Alstott is in her first year as a fifth-grade transition coordinator at Fort Dodge Middle School.
Madyson Alstott is focused on kindness in her classroom.
"We have a kindness jar," Madyson Alstott said. "We are a Certified Kind Classroom."
She said the class is reading a book called "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio.
While reading the book, the class decided to participate in the 2018-2019 Certified Kind Classroom Challenge.
"Every day we are trying to find different ways to be kind to each other," Madyson Alstott said. "At the end of the day, in a circle, students share out loud the kind acts they saw or did throughout the day."
After they share their act of kindness, students get to put a bead in the jar. Once the jar fills up, the students get a prize.
"We just filled up the jar, so I made them homemade Rice Krispy bars," Madyson Alstott said.
The class was one of the first 500 classes in the country to fill their jar and be recognized as a Certified Kind Classroom.
"We got a Certified Kind banner and we are on their website which is kind of cool," Madyson Alstott said.
On one occasion, a student was upset that he didn't get picked first for the game "heads up seven up!"
For the game, seven students stand in front of the class. The other students put their heads on their desks. The seven then move about and each touches a student. Once touched, a student sticks his or her thumb up. Then the seven say "heads up seven up!"
To make the student feel better, another boy said he could take his spot, according to Madyson Alstott.
"I thought it was the sweetest thing," she said.
Students' manners have improved during the kindness challenge, she said.
"They say please and thank you a lot more," Madyson Alstott said. "They use their manners with the lunch ladies, play with each other at recess if someone has no friends to play with. They fill up each other's water bottles."
Mackenzie Alstott is helping students develop social skills at FDMS.
She works with fifth-graders, who are transitioning from the elementary school to the middle school.
"My job is to help with that process," Mackenzie Alstott said. "I am there to support emotional behavior needs, social needs."
She believes the prevalence of technology has caused students to become less social.
"Students don't have to communicate face-to-face as much anymore," she said.
As a result, one of her goals is to help students find balance in that aspect of their lives.
Part of her job includes working with students in small groups, where she helps them make new friends.
"I have six kids in a group and one is selected as a role model," Mackenzie Alstott said. "I have one person they can go off of. One of the sessions we meet twice a week and one of the days we play a game, and they talk and have fun and then the other day is more of a discussion. It's called second step training."
Mackenzie Alstott also coaches middle school basketball and freshmen volleyball, and she's an assistant varsity softball coach.
She holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and sociology from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She said she didn't always plan to work in Fort Dodge.
"She (Madyson) knew," Mackenzie Alstott said. "I didn't. I lived in Des Moines and I moved back here and was drug and alcohol counselor at CFR for a couple years. But it's hard to work full-time and coach full-time too. Being in the school system allowed me to coach, and then my dream job is to be a counselor. They created this job I have now and it's basically a fifth-grade counselor without that job title."
Madyson Alstott holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Buena Vista University. She has known since high school she wanted to teach in the FDCSD.
"I always planned on teaching here," she said. "I started at Feelhaver this past fall, but this is my second teaching job. I taught for a half of a school year at Community Christian (School)."
Madyson Alstott added, "Maybe I am biased, but going to school here I always wanted to teach here in this district."
When she was a student at FDSH, Madyson Alstott served as a high school helper in Julie Williams' classroom.
"She still teaches kindergarten at Duncombe (Elementary School)," Madyson Alstott said. "It was kind of unique because I was her high school helper for two different parts and I was able to do some college observations with her. At first I sat back at watched her and then she let me teach small little things, like starting off the day, reading some of the words they were learning. But it was really cool to see how the students responded to her and how they listened to her so well."
Later, Madyson Alstott completed some student teaching at Duncombe.
"I saw her there, so that was kind of cool," Madyson Alstott said.
While in high school, the sisters didn't necessarily communicate much.
"I played sports and she was a cheerleader, so we kind of took different paths," Mackenzie Alstott said. "We could go days and not see each other at school."
But they had someone to turn to if need be.
"I was the mean one, I guess," Mackenzie Alstott said. "I would stick up for her if I needed to."
The sisters grew up with four other siblings in their Fort Dodge home - two brothers and two sisters.
Madyson Alstott and Mackenzie Alstott both said building relationships at the schools theyr work in is one of their top priorities.
"Having that relationship with students," Mackenzie Alstott said. "Having that one-on-one and being their safe person to go to."
Madyson Alstott is finding that her students are warming up to her.
"It's just crazy," she said. "At the beginning of the school year, students were so afraid to ask me questions and now I have a few students whenever I have free time after school, when I don't have PLCs, they'll ask to stay after and help me, which I think is the cutest thing."
The sisters said having a history with the schools has been a benefit.
"We know the dynamics of the town and the schools being born and raised here," Mackenzie Alstott said.