Silt teacher touches heart and mind of former pupil

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Sheila Allen of Silt hugs her former student Dovovan Hill after she was recognized as the winner of the “My Favorite Teacher Contest” at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Saturday.

Over 27 years in public education, Silt elementary teacher Sheila Allen said she often wondered what difference she made in the lives of her students.

A former student, fourth-grader Donovan Hill, reminded her.

Allen, who will retire this semester from Cactus Valley Elementary in Silt, embraced Donovan on Saturday when the teacher was presented a certificate of appreciation as the winner of the Grand Junction Barnes & Noble “My Favorite Teacher” contest.

“I’m humbled,” Allen said. “I think Donovan’s the winner here, too.”

Allen was selected after staff members at the local store were moved to tears by a letter written by Donovan, according to Laura Mettauer, Barnes & Noble’s community-relations manager.

Forty-two nomination letters were written by students, 37 of them from Garfield County, she said.

“It’s clear that this was a kid who started out without the support he needed, but made it because a teacher showed love,” Mettauer said.

As Donovan, 10, explained in his winning letter, he went to live with his great-grandparents at age 5. He arrived in Allen’s class at Cactus Valley Elementary as a first-grader six months behind classmates. Allen suggested he repeat the grade, which Donovan did.

Donovan wrote in the letter that Allen taught him “how to respect, I had no respect for anyone, never heard a nursery rhyme and never sang songs or played with kids my age.”

“(I) started to draw pictures, learned about Green Eggs and Ham, and even tasted them, while reading more Dr. Seuss’s wonderful books. Mrs. Allen made learning fun.”

Allen and her former student’s letter will be entered in a “My Favorite Teacher” regional contest sponsored by the company, which includes a potential top cash prize of $500 for the winner, Mettauer said.


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