Around our Town...Outstanding Educators
01/05/2001 - Just one glance at Al Allen's resume – engineer, geologist, athlete, museum curator, writer, minister, and, of course, teacher, tells you he's outstanding in more ways than one. After receiving master's degrees in geology and engineering from Omaha University, Al wrote an oil finding thesis so excellent that it garnered several job offers. He chose Wyoming. Why? "Wyoming is the greatest laboratory on the face of the earth. Few places in the world are like this!"
That was 1955. Now, almost fifty years later, Al and his wife of fifty-two years, Kitty, still love it here. Al has been teaching for thirty-seven years in Casper in the public school system and also at Paradise Valley Christian School. This semester is the first in thirty-seven years that he has not taught at Casper College.
Kitty is also a well – loved teacher at PVC where she has been for six years. She gets to know her students personally right off the bat, which makes it easier to relate to them well.
When oil companies pulled out of Wyoming, Al was given the opportunity to leave the state he loves. He chose to stay and was immediately hired by Casper College. There he taught geology for school teachers and also taught with the key Model by Barbara Crewes – a knowledge and enrichment program by which young people gain the opportunity to study challenging subjects.
Al likes to unravel things and research them. Many of his papers have been published in scientific journals, especially on the Lance Formation and the Morrison Formation. Al successfully broke the Morrison Formation into three units. Why? Because he was told it couldn't be done, of course! Al has been a geology consultant for twenty-one years, specializing in dinosaur beds. He worked for six years with Robert T. Bakker – perhaps the world's leading paleontologist. Observing Bakker convinced Al that enthusiasm makes a great teacher. "If you can get excited about your subject and transfer that enthusiasm to your students, you are an effective teacher."
Apparently, it works. "He's into what he teaches," says student, Angela Hess. "He loves science and astronomy."
"He explains things in the book really well," echoes Merena White and Crystal Roberts adds, "He puts up with us when he doesn't have to."
Al currently teaches PE and science at PVC, where he has also ministered since church's inception. He says the most challenging aspect of teaching is... "the abject lack of discipline, even in college." He desires to be a teacher students can relate to, not an "old fussbudget."
Principal Jeanne Boyd says of Al, "He's caring, he makes learning fun, he goes the extra mile to make sure his students understand and he's a godly man with godly principles."
Ms. Botkin, Al's sixth grade teacher, was an inspiration to him. "She loved everything she did with her students. Her enthusiasm was catching." Another inspiring educator in Al's life was a Hungarian geophysicist he studied under in college named John Fazekas.
We're sure Al's own enthusiasm will be remembered by future Outstanding Educators in years to come.