The women in my life have been a huge inspiration for me.

Ali Alowonle

Teacher, Navigator Program

Medina, MN

The women in my life have been a huge inspiration for me. Growing up, I watched my mom—a strong, persistent, bold woman—achieve her dreams. Not only was she a role model for me, but she also taught me with her words and actions that I, too, could be anything that I wanted to be in the world. Because of my mom, I have always felt like I was important to the universe.

In elementary school, I was a quiet kid: I could have easily melted away without any notice, but Mrs. Rhode would not allow that to happen. She took the time to really get to know me. I really felt like I mattered in her class, something that was not always the case in other classrooms.

In my teacher training program at the University of Minnesota, my professor and student-teaching supervisor, Dr. Joanne Buggey, always expected the best, and she let you know it if you fell short of her standards. I appreciated and learned from her high expectations and pushed myself to be the best that I could be for my students. As a parent of school-aged children, I appreciate what Dr. Buggey was trying to do even more—she knew that every child deserved the best teacher, and she believed that there was no place for mediocrity in education.

There have been so many wonderful people to inspire my teaching, but the most important ones are my students and their families. My students are responsible for keeping me up at night and for getting me up in the morning: they are the reason that I teach.

Ali Alowonle is a 4th- and 5th-grade teacher in Minnetonka Public School’s Navigator Program for gifted students. She was a finalist for Minnesota’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.