Teaching drives Allen

By ERIN HOPKINS, Student Reporter

Blisters formed on her feet as she danced the night away for 36 hours. When Dawn Allen was in college, she and her future husband, John Allen, completed a dance marathon. They laughed a lot and had a blast. Dawn got blisters but persevered and finished.

Dawn Allen persevered with her education as well and received her undergraduate degree in English Education from Pittsburg State University in 1980. She taught in the Olathe School District for 18 years before earning her MFA in Writing from the University of Nebraska in 2009. In 2009 she joined the English Department at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan. Since coming to Northwestern in 2012, she has taught Writing and Literacy and Composition I and II.

Allen is currently in her second year as the composition coordinator at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. Her passion for writing led her to teaching where she developed a passion for kids and learning focused on outside factors rather than within her.

Professionally a short term goal in her life is to help kids get the skill sets they need in order to be successful. Long term she hopes to be the best educator she can be with the tools provided. In her personal life is a goal to find more of a balance between work life and home. Being raised by Type A parents she is a workaholic.

The road to teaching at Northwestern began with the decision to move closer to her kids. She felt comfortable with the decision after meeting Dr. James Bell who respected her as an educator and she could tell the department was strong.

“When you find the right job, when it feels like a team, you’re in the right place,” Allen said.

Allen says her biggest strength is her passion for teaching. In this rush, rush society people are losing out on higher critical thinking skills to a certain degree. She says in teaching it is vital to help students question and not just accept things for how they are done. Students have got to be able to vocalize and think as a communicator in society.

“I strive to be structured but I think I come off as the Absent Minded Professor,” Allen said.

Her co-worker Dr. Jennifer Page describes Allen in the work field as reliable, considerate and very competent in her profession. Likewise as a friend to Page, Dawn is described as delightful, easy-going and fun to be around.

“Professor Allen is understanding and accepting,” Page said. “She makes her office a safe place for co-workers and students. In the work environment she is very welcoming, provides good feedback and is never judgmental.”

People may have the misconception that she is the oblivious professor, doesn’t get pop culture or that she is not up to date on current events. Page says all of those misconceptions are proved false when speaking only a couple minutes with Allen.

As a co-worker Allen has helped Page become more confident, and feel like a better teacher.

“Dawn is an important person to her students and co-workers,” Page said. “I hope she knows I value her friendship tremendously.”

Allen grew up in a different time on the outskirts of the inner city of Kansas City, Kan. She walked close to two miles to school.

“During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s so much was happening,” Allen said. “It was a dynamic time to be alive.”

Her mother is a mentor who encouraged her to read at a young age all the time. At a young age her mother instilled in her a love for books. Of course another mentor would be her 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Cooper, who was everything a good teacher should be. This woman helped Allen to develop a love for writing as she was in total disagreement with journalism in the ‘60s.

“I thought my life would consist of me traveling all over Vietnam taking pictures, single and no children,” Allen said. “Probably be an old cat lady…but the basics are not really off that much since I stayed on track. I wanted to write a book and now I’ve written and sold five books.”

She has vital relationships with her two sons, Patrick and Barrett, whom she has learned more from than anyone. There are different sparks with each one and they have taught her how to be flexible and go outside her comfort zone. The level of how comfortable she is with whom she is comes from her children.

The memory of the birth of her second son is something she will never forget. The birth of her first son was text book where everything went right. The second birth had little things that went wrong which could have resulted in tragedy.

“Going up against your own mortality is one thing, but your child—can never forget that,” Allen said.

Furthermore the most important person in her life is her husband. Her husband, John Allen, met her on the Pittsburg State University campus in Kansas. They were in a Grammar class together and she actually stole his seat so she could meet and talk to him.
“She’s a thief,” John said. “First impression of her was swept away in her beautiful blue eyes.”

Their marriage seemed to hit it off from the start, since they were both raised from similar good family values, Christian values. His parents were fun but also taught respect. Both sets of parents were very encouraging and hard working. They taught their children to go after their dreams.

“We wanted the same things from life and made sure not to take life too seriously,” John said.

The couple was married at Dawn’s childhood church the Grand View Christian Church on August 4, 1979 at 7 p.m. in Kansas City, Kan.

When Dawn and John started dating, John’s mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She lived seven and a half years when she was given only six months to live. John lost his mother and both his grandmothers in the first year of marriage. Dawn loved his family as much as her blood relations.

“Getting through that was a significant point in our marriage,” John said. “She is the best supportive and beautiful wife.”

Dawn says two people change throughout a marriage and if they don’t adapt to changes then things will get rough pretty quick. She really likes seeing the different versions of her husband and how he helps her change and grow as a person.

“She loves scrapbooking and will go shoulder to shoulder with me in gardening,” John said.

After 37 years of marriage she has spent more time with him than her parents.

Her parents and father especially are a really important influence in her life. He taught her to go out and question, to not accept things and be her own-independent woman.

In the last couple of years Dawn has dealt with problems as her father is battling Alzheimer’s disease. Her oldest son Patrick Allen says it worked out that it happened at the right time.

“If that had occurred earlier, it would have been very hard on her,” Patrick said. “It is still hard but she’s stronger than she was. She is bent but not broken. The situation has been very hard for the family. I know it is extremely hard on her since she is not living close enough to give the help she is determined to give. Nobody is facing it alone though.”

In order to achieve happiness she searches for peace. Dawn says there is a need for the soul to be at peace. She emphasizes that all human beings crave it, even if there is little in the world today. The world needs to find the ability to feel peace.

On the other hand Natasha Hanova, Dawn’s critique partner and friend for over ten years, has another layer to add to the NWOSU composition coordinator.

Reflecting on an embarrassing moment for Allen-“Trunk-fish” Natasha said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

The pair swap about 10-20 pages of their writing and discuss what can be improved and what worked.

Her critique partner says in her writing Dawn is very good with drawing readers into her plots and characters. She provides very descriptive details for settings and makes the reader care about what will happen to the characters.

In her critique mode Dawn is known for a keen eye in grammar and story structure. She provides honest constructive criticism with encouragement. As an avid reader she is always recommending books for Hanova to try.

“Dawn has a thirst for knowledge and wanting to become a better writer,” Hanova said. “We took a walk during one of the first writing retreats looking at nature and I remember feeling a sense of belonging from talking with Dawn about the challenges of being a writer.”

When Natasha’s mother passed away she was ready to give up writing, but Allen helped her through that.

“Dawn is like the wind in her power as a teacher to shape and mold students in to people who think for themselves like the wind can change the shape of a mountain,” Hanova said. “She is strong but has a quiet side like a breeze.”

Most people think of introversion to be shy. Not shy but she is very much someone who needs alone time.

“I am a LONER,” Allen said. “I need time to recharge and regenerate my creative side where I can write and journal to have the energy to do one event with five people.”

Meanwhile Dawn’s oldest son Patrick Allen says he along with his brother had great childhoods.

“My mom was more of the adventure, free-spirit and fun parent,” Patrick said. “She would take us to ball parks, the swimming pool and make sure we were involved with outdoor activities. As my dad traveled a lot my mom was the one who kept our family all glued together.”

Dawn kept her boys’ childhood fun with various birthday parties, family vacations, scavenger hunts and a lot of ‘60s music playing on the radio.

Patrick says his mom made sure she was a parent first but formed a very open and honest relationship with her sons.

“As I started dating, my mom would pick us up and drop us off for the date,” Patrick said. “I was embarrassed because she was better at breaking the ice with the girl than I was.”

 

He reflected on his favorite memories of watching the planes land and take off with his mom as a child and having her there on his wedding day.

Patrick says she is the predominant reason of who he is today and Dawn is perfect as you can get when it comes to a mom.

“I am more proud when she’s faced adversity, when she went back to school and continued her education, with her writing specifically,” he said. “She re-aligned herself and hasn’t given up. I’m extremely proud of what she’s done as an educator.”