Student writer Andrea Day contributed to this story.
School of Education Assistant Professor Dawn Mallette was honored March 27 as a 2019 Best Teacher by the Colorado State University Alumni Association.
Mallette is the program coordinator for the Family and Consumer Sciences Bachelor of Science degree program. She advises most of the students in the program, teaches multiple courses, and supervises the program’s student teachers. Additionally, Mallette serves as the School of Education’s associate director for distance education.
An alumni-led nomination
CSU Family and Consumer Sciences alumni had a large hand in Mallette’s recognition. Together, several of Mallette’s past students created a Facebook page titled “Dawn Mallette for Best Teacher” that encouraged alumni to vote for and write a statement or letter in honor of Mallette’s hard work as a professor and adviser.
“I’m honored,” said Mallette. “It is a true compliment to have my past students take the time to recognize me. It’s very humbling to realize the impact I’ve had on their lives.”
Mallette truly believes that she’s found a home at CSU, especially in the Family and Consumer Sciences program. Her colleagues, students, and advisees have allowed her to find a deep love for her job and the people she interacts with on a daily basis.
“Really, I should be thanking my students for what they’ve done for me as a faculty member here at CSU,” said Mallette. “I feel like I’m the lucky one because of the large number of amazing students who have passed through and continue to be a part of my life journey.”
The road to teaching
Mallette’s interest in family and consumer sciences began in middle and high school when she took several home economics classes. Her home economics teacher’s positive impact on her and her peers was inspiring.
“I remember my home economics teacher fondly,” said Mallette, “and I remember thinking that it was something I could see myself doing in the future.”
Along with home economics classes, Mallette was a part of 4-H, a research-based program that encourages youth leadership through mentorship, hands-on projects, and other leadership opportunities. Her love for 4-H also influenced her decision to major in home economics education at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas.
Through earning her degree, Mallette discovered a love for connecting with students, and sharing the important life skills and knowledge taught within the home economics curriculum. Mallette secured a teaching position at Crete Junior/Senior High School in Nebraska and taught there for three years. While teaching, she earned her master’s degree in education and extension from the University of Nebraska. She then moved with her family to Fort Collins.
It was in Fort Collins that her current career took off. Mallette wasn’t able to find secondary school openings in Fort Collins and settled for temporarily working as a substitute teacher. Two years later, she was hired as an introductory level fashion instructor at CSU. She found herself drifting back to her roots in the home economics department, where she was able to assist in writing curriculum. Soon after, she began teaching courses in teacher education for the School of Education, earning her doctorate from CSU at the same time.
An educator like no other
As a teacher and an adviser, Mallette works tirelessly to create meaningful relationships with her students and advisees.
“Being the main adviser for FCS, I am a resource for students who come to me with questions related to their degree, as well as exciting news or tough, personal issues,” said Mallette. “I believe I’m a good listener, and I enjoy getting to know the students on a personal level. My hope is that it makes a difference in students’ progress to graduation when they feel like someone at CSU cares about them and their future.”
Mallette continues these meaningful relationships even past graduation; her students tend to stay in touch and update her on their lives. She celebrates new jobs, births of children, weddings, and other exciting life events.
“Getting to know students is probably the highlight of my career,” said Mallette. “It feels like I have a whole extended family I’ve seen grow and develop into strong individuals, family leaders, and professionals.”
Because Mallette forms strong bonds with her students, it is no surprise that she was nominated as a Best Teacher.
Kelsey Mauch, an alumna of the CSU Family and Consumer Sciences program, was one of Mallette’s nominators, saying, “Not only has Dawn inspired us to be great teachers, she has inspired us to spread the love of education to everyone. I could not have asked for a better person to walk into my life to help me choose a career and build the passion I now have for Family and Consumer Sciences.”
Advice to future educators
Mallette serves as a wonderful example of teaching and advising excellence for those who pursue a career in education. She hopes her students learn to care for their own students and to find a balance between their work and their personal lives.
“I think teaching is a profession that is very rewarding and challenging in many different ways,” said Mallette. “I’ve found so much satisfaction in my life as an educator, and my hope is that my students will as well.”
Mallette looks forward to continuing to impact the lives of her future students while they continue to have an impact on her life. She remains grateful for her CSU, Family and Consumer Sciences, and teacher education families.
“I often share the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, ‘Life is a journey – not a destination,’ with my students,” said Mallette. “I’m thankful my journey allows me to influence the future in positive ways.”
The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.