“It’s been nice to have the recognition this year,” Ahlgren said. “Being a new mom it’s been a tough transition for me. If I hadn’t had the recognition in the last year then maybe in the tough times I would have questioned myself more, but now it’s like ‘No, I’m really not crazy, I can do this.’ Having the recognition gave me confidence in being a first time mom and teacher of the year.”
The confidence has carried over into other classrooms as well. Ahlgren mentioned that one of her favorite parts of being Teacher of the Year has been networking with other teachers.
“It’s so important to be lifting each other up,” Ahlgren said. “I’ve enjoyed talking with people in other classrooms, celebrating their successes and commiserating on challenges. I want to cheer them on and give them the recognition they deserve even if it’s just mine.”
Being Teacher of Year isn’t all celebrations though, it still comes with the same everyday challenges and Ahlgren encourages the next Teacher of the Year to stay humble.
Interestingly, one Ahlgren’s challenges has turned into her greatest accomplishment this school year.
According to Ahlgren, one particular student in her class started the year as “unfocused” and “disruptive.” Over the course of the year she’s noticed the student change to one who contributes and wants to learn.
“When I have one of the most challenging kids and I can make big strides with them, it means a lot more to me than anything else,” she said.
Ahlgren likes to think of herself as a crusader for kids.
“It comes with heartbreak and headaches, but there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing them accomplish their goals,” she said.
Ahlgren’s favorite days of the school year are the ones right after testing is finished. She uses the time to reflect with her class on the goals they’ve accomplished throughout the year.
Her goal is to stay in IPS and ensure kids are getting what they need.
She wants to encourage the next Teacher of the Year to continue advocating publicly for students and teachers.
“Whether it’s at the city council or the statehouse, it carries weight and responsibility, so speak out for our kids and teachers,” she said.
Ahlgren said people listen a little harder when they realize the position she has as teacher of year, and credits the title for allowing her to make a lasting impression on students, teachers, administrators, politicians and community members.
“Being able to speak out and support IPS and its teachers has been huge,” she said. “I’m having a bigger impact than I would have and it’s exciting. I want our kids to be successful and I want people to see what our kids can do when they have the right opportunities.”
We’re proud of Ahlgren and the effect she’s had in the district this year. We look forward to seeing how she continues her work with IPS students and teachers!