Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: 10 Questions for Heidi Albin (KS '17)

March 12, 2018

1000w Maize 2017 Heidi Albin classroom 3

Heidi Albin (KS '17) credits her fifth-grade teacher, Milken Educator Gary Bloemker (CO '94), for passing on his passion for education and influencing her teaching style: “He was the best teacher I ever had, and he showed me how to love school and love students.” Heidi won Kansas’ 2017-18 Award at Complete High School Maize on November 9, 2017.

1. What went through your mind when you heard your name called at your surprise notification?

Heidi Albin: As Jane [Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards] was talking about the Award, I kept thinking about how awesome it was that one of the staff members in our building would be receiving it. I was going through all the other staff members in my head and why they would deserve it. When she called my name, I thought perhaps it was a mistake!

2. How did your students respond to your Milken Award? What impact has it had on them?

Heidi: Some of my students cried or teared up when my name was called, and afterward several students gave me a giant group hug. All of my students were really excited for me and that felt great. I think they now know that their school is top-notch. Often, people think that alternative schools are where all the washed-out teachers, bad students, and used equipment go. But our alternative school invests the best in students to bring out their best.

1000w Maize 2017 Heidi Albin check with dog

3. How did you end up in education?

Heidi: I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I majored in Cellular Molecular Biology at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) because I wanted to learn more of the in-depth science that I would miss out on if I majored in education. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I began the Transition to Teaching program at FHSU, which let me earn my teaching certification in addition to studying the in-depth science concepts I’m passionate about. It was also a first step toward receiving my Master of Science in secondary education.

4. Who are your role models as an educator?

Heidi: My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Bloemker, who was also a Milken Award recipient [Gary Bloemker, CO ‘94]. He was the best teacher I ever had, and he showed me how to love school and love students. I wanted to grow up and be a teacher just like him. Much of my teaching is actually modeled on the example he set for me while I was in his class.

My grandparents on my mother’s side were both teachers and they helped me with my homework as I grew up. Granddad helped me with math—I was always amazed at his patience with me and his unique way of explaining concepts.

1000w Heidi Albin quote

5. What memories stand out from your first year of teaching?

Heidi: I will never forget the group of students I had my first year. Something about the very first group of students a teacher is ever entrusted with leaves a lasting impact. They helped me grow as an educator as I learned the ropes and made my rookie mistakes.

6. What are students most likely to remember about their time in your class?

Heidi: We have a lot of fun. We spend significant time outside of the classroom fishing, training for wilderness survival, visiting farms and businesses, gardening, etc. I think those experiences will stick with my students more than the in-class instruction time. We also hatch chicks each year and have had a variety of classroom pets over the years, including Kinsey, our facility therapy dog. I think they will also remember all the hilarious moments that we laugh about on a daily basis.

1000w Maize 2017 Heidi Albin reaction 2

7. What’s your biggest challenge in the classroom?

Heidi: There is never enough time to do all of the activities I want to do! I have so many ideas for projects and ways to enrich my students, but often the “urgent” aspects of my job get in the way of the “important” aspects.

8. How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?

Heidi: I am happy to be able to donate some to programs that have helped me become a better teacher, such as Fishing’s Future. I was also able to buy nice gifts for each of my fellow staff members and treat them to a meal—I believe they are all as deserving of the Award as I am. I am also using some for student needs. Taking into consideration taxes, over half of the money will be going to other people. The portion that I’m keeping will be mostly used responsibly to help with finances, but some of it will be used for a trip this summer to see family in Denmark.

1000w Maize 2017 Heidi Albin acceptance speech

9. What would you say to a student who expresses interest in a career in education?

Heidi: I would encourage them to pursue it! But I would also warn them that it is not just a job. Teaching is an entire lifestyle that absorbs nights and weekends. You have to be willing to give much more of yourself than you will ever be financially compensated for, but the rewards are much greater than any paycheck.

10. What’s your definition of success?

Heidi: Galatians 5:6 says, “The only thing that matters is faith working through love.” Success is showing love to my students and other people, in whatever way I can. When life is over, that is all that lasts.


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