IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS
A love for books and a desire to help students learn language arts keeps Allison Conley motivated at St. Helens High School.
Conley, who has taught social studies, currently teaches language arts at the high school — primarily at the 10th-grade level, although she has taught for 11th-graders.
Conley, who lives in Portland and commutes to St. Helens, explains language arts as “building reading, writing, analysis and critical thinking skills.”
In her role as a language arts teacher, Conley said, “We’ll read novels, short stories, a lot of analysis of that literature.” Students will take part in analysis writing, narrative writing and creative writing.
“We also do a lot of speaking and listening, some public speaking,” she said.
Growing up, Conley lived in Pullman, Washington. When she was in the eighth grade, her family moved to Las Vegas.
For most of her life, Conley had a desire to get into education.
“I felt like I would enjoy being a teacher,” she said. “I’ve always loved school, and school was a really positive, safe place for me. I loved learning. I enjoyed the routine of it.”
Before deciding on a career as a teacher, Conley contemplated musical theater or becoming a writer.
“I fell on teaching because I fully see myself staying in school, essentially,” Conley said. “I love the challenge of getting to learn something along with students.”
Conley started teaching at St. Helens High School in 2019. Before that, she was getting her master’s in education and her bachelor’s degree in English Language Arts.
Conley particularly enjoys teaching and getting to know students at the high school level.
“They are really growing into themselves,” she said. “They’re such wonderful personalities that range from student to student. They are starting to really understand their strengths and their interests and wanting to explore them.”
Conley continued, “Most of my day is spent talking and hanging out with students.”
As for motivating her students, in this age of electronic devices, to remember the importance of good old-fashioned books, Conley said, “I think largely, the kids are really interested in reading.”
But cell phones can also be of importance if teachers can keep students’ attention.
“We really have to work, at the high school level, of teaching them how to use their phone as a resource and not a thing you get to play around with,” she said.
Conley continued, “I think, largely, the students are really engaged in reading. It’s just that different books will attract different students.”
Conley keeps busy with her teaching duties, but she does manage a little off time, when possible.
“I love reading when I’m at home, on my porch, and it’s sunny outside,” she said, noting she enjoys young adult literature and thriller mysteries. “But I also really enjoy traveling, so I’m planning a couple of different trips around the United States, but I’m kind of waiting to see what is going on with COVID.”
Conley also enjoys hiking and music.
“I’ve always played piano and sung in choirs growing up,” she said.
At St. Helens High School, Conley not only gets satisfaction from teaching, but gets along well with her co-workers.
“My favorite thing about teaching there, besides my actual role of being with students, is my co-workers, especially in my language arts department,” Conley said. “They are just really supportive and kind people that I love being with every day and whom I can laugh with.”
Conley explained her motivation for beginning each day.
“I look forward to having a new day, every day,” she said. “Every day is different.”