The gymnasium at St. Peter’s Elementary was filled with balloons, smiling faces and thunderous cheers as students gathered to watch kindergarten teacher Alie Mallinak receive the Mid Rivers Newsmagazine’s Teacher of the Year award for 2019.
Mallinak received the award at a surprise assembly on May 23 in front of a crowd of cheering students. Mallinak’s parents and other family members also greeted her at the assembly.
“I was dumbfounded,” Mallinak said, who was sitting with her class of students prior to the announcement.
Created to recognize excellence in education, the Teacher of the Year award is presented annually to an area teacher who has made a positive difference in the lives of students in the community.
That positive difference is exactly why resident Joyce Flaugher nominated Mallinak for the award.
“Alie is such a great teacher, my grandson was not looking forward to starting school but because of Alie’s warm and caring ways that she has shown to him he loves school,” Flaugher wrote. “She always makes herself available to the parents and grandparents. She has a real passion for teaching, her love for the children is very apparent.”
According to Mallinak, who is in her second year as a teacher, that love for her students is exactly what she tries to bring into the classroom on a daily basis.
“I try to make sure students feel loved,” Mallinak said. “That’s my number one thing. In some of the families around here, some of these kids come from broken homes. My number one priority is to make sure they feel safe.”
Principal Dr. Erin Gruntman agrees.
“We love through a lot, and our kids are so young, so we try to build a really solid foundation where they love school and love coming to school, and she is an excellent example of that,” Gruntman said of Mallinak.
Flaugher also described Mallinak as a “great mentor” for the young students in her class.
“This is such an important time of the children’s lives – she has patience, creativity and the desire to mold and shape young minds and helping them to grow,” Flaugherwrote. “Alie is awesome, we need more teachers like her.”
According to Mallinak, her classroom philosophy is simple: “Kindness and respect.”
“Teaching them to show the same respect I show them, and everybody else,” Mallinak said. “I try to make sure their environment is filled with love, and then they can learn.”
It’s a philosophy that many at St. Peters Elementary agree with and strive to provide for all students.
“I’ve gotten to know her, and she is excellent with relationship building,” Gruntman said. “She knows how to talk to kids, she knows how to get on their level, she knows how to find out things about them. She cares so much for them, and she loves them.”
Mallinak’s parents, Lori and Jim, attended the surprise ceremony and knew about the nomination about three weeks before its announcement.
When asked if she could believe the fact that her daughter had been nominated for the award, Lori’s reply was immediate.
“Yes. It was not a surprise to us,” Lori said. “She just really cares about her students. She’s an excellent teacher.”
Many local businesses helped to sponsor the Mid Rivers Newsmagazine Teacher of the Year award, including Dream Play Recreation, Sylvan Learning and Busey Bank of O’Fallon. In addition to bragging rights, the Teacher of the Year recipient receives a prize package including an iPad, dinner certificates, a cake, flowers and an award certificate.