Helena Magazine

Schools Q&A – Allison Festavan

Published 11:20 am Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Allison Festavan

Kindergarten and first grade special education teacher at Helena Elementary School

How long have you been a special education teacher at Helena?
I have been at Helena for 19 years! I started at Helena Elementary School right out of college in August of 2003 as a paraprofessional. During that time I worked on my master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Once I completed my master’s degree in 2006, I was hired on as a special education teacher.

What do you love most about teaching at Helena Elementary School?
Helena feels like home to me! It is the school where I started my career. It is the school where my older daughter had an incredible start to her education and now my younger daughter is getting the same exceptional experience. Helena has a faculty and staff that, in my opinion, is second to none! I am surrounded by hard-working, dedicated, passionate educators and a supportive community of parents. I could not even imagine myself anywhere else!

You recently were named teacher of the year, Congratulations! How did it feel to be honored with that award?
Thank you! Being named Teacher of the Year is definitely an honor. Just to be nominated is an honor. We have so many amazing teachers in our building who are more than deserving of such recognition. To me, this award means that I have earned the respect of my colleagues and that they recognize my efforts. It is such a compliment and I am truly grateful!

What have you learned working with students with special needs?
Over the years the most important thing I have learned is how to advocate for my students and their needs. It is important to me that I know my students well and what their families want for their future. Having a good relationship with my students and their families is something that I have learned is one of the most valuable pieces to their success.

What is something you wish people knew or understood about what you do?
Special Education teachers wear a lot of hats. We are constantly adapting and rearranging schedules and services to best meet the needs of our students. Not one year, one week, one day is the same as the next. It requires a lot of flexibility and collaboration to do our jobs well in order to see success and progress with our students. There is a great deal of behind-the-scenes work and paperwork that goes into the special education process.

The holidays in school form many memories for younger students. What is your favorite activity/thing to do with the students during this time?
My favorite thing we do as a school is the Christmas Sing-Along. The whole school comes together and joins in singing carols. It is such a special moment for the whole school- children, teachers, and faculty.

What is one lesson you hope your students learn from you and carry into life?
My students face challenges; however, I talk to them about working hard and doing their best. I want my students to be proud of the work they put in to accomplish their goals. I set high expectations for my students and I teach them early on that they can do anything they set their mind to. My hope is that they carry that drive with them through the years and through their life.